In Brief: Pakistan sets date for 850-MHz auction 

Pakistan's telecom regulator will auction off spectrum in the 850 MHz band in mid-June. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) will sell off 10 MHz of frequencies in the 850 MHz band on 13 June.The spectrum in question was left unsold at a 2014 auction. It carries a reserve price of US$395 million (€349 million).The regulator did not say when it will publish the results of the auction. Pakistan still hopes to attract a new market entrant via the auction –.

***Vodacom has overtaken MTN to become the largest operator in Africa by market capitalisation, largely as a result of MTN’s six-month fight with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over payment of a record fine. MTN’s market capitalisation was 244 billion rand ($16.2 billion) just behind Vodacom’s market capitalisation of 249 billion rand.

***Bahamian telecoms regulator the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has published industry responses to its proposal to impose a significant market power (SMP) obligation on incumbent Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), forcing it to provide access to its network to newcomer Cable Bahamas Ltd (CBL)-managed NewCo via a national roaming agreement. The measure is intended to ease NewCo’s commercial launch by allowing the cellco to offer services throughout the country via BTC’s network whilst it builds out its own infrastructure. URCA’s proposal would require BTC to provide coverage only in areas where NewCo has not rolled out its own network. The regulator also clarified that NewCo would still be required to meet the coverage targets set out in its licence and, as such, would last a maximum of 36 months.

***Russian-owned,Netherlands-based telecoms group VimpelCom says it is confident that the merger of its Italian subsidiary Wind Telecomunicazioni with mobile market rival 3 Italia will go ahead as planned and complete by the end of this year,despite decision by the European Commission(EC)to block a similar deal between 3 and O2 in the UK.The EUR21.8 billion (USD25 billion)Italian merger would combine the country’s third and fourth largest cellcos, with the merged entity taking first place in the market ahead of Telecom Italia(TIM)and Vodafone.In March this year the EC opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed merger,voicing concerns that it could lead to higher prices for consumers.

***Facebook has launched the Free Basics service in Nigeria through Airtel Africa,marking the further expansion of the internet.org initiative across the continent.Airtel has already pledged to launch Free Basics-which essentially provides free or zero-rated access to online services -in its 17 markets across Africa.However,that plan appears to have taken longer than expected,with the rollout in all markets originally scheduled for completion in March 2016.Facebook said more than half of the 40 countries where Free Basics has been launched are in Africa. -