ISLAMABAD, April 23 (Reuters) - Pakistan raised $903 million in its first auction for 3G mobile phone networks on Wednesday, as well as $210 million for the more advanced 4G spectrum, with four foreign-owned companies emerging as winners from the long-anticipated bidding process.
The South Asian country of 180 million people hopes to use the auction as a way to boost the economy and promote advanced telecoms technology among its 132 million mobile phone users.
The four winners of the 3G auction were Russian-owned Mobilink, Chinese-controlled Zong, Norway’s Telenor, and Ufone - a company jointly owned by the Pakistan government and the United Arab Emirates’ Etisalat.
As for the 4G spectrum, the sole winner was Zong, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
Warid Telecom Pakistan, another company operating in Pakistan, did not make any bids.
Ismail Shah, the PTA head, announced the results to reporters late on Wednesday after the auction, which lasted all day.
Pakistan is the only major country in the region that still does not offer 3G services. Its neighbour, war-ravaged Afghanistan, switched to 3G services in 2012.
The country’s telecoms market was deregulated in 2004 and foreign firms such as Etisalat have invested heavily. But services that use 3G and 4G connections have been out of reach of most Pakistani customers.
Editing by Maria Golovnina and Pravin Char