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Pakistan - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

Pakistan’s SIM re-verification sees subscribers numbers fall

With mobile operators in Pakistan starting to shift their focus to value-added services, there was much anticipation in the market place when the PTA finally issued 3G licences through an auction process in 2014. Coming into 2015 the anticipation was well-founded as the roll-out of 3G services gave the sector a real boost. In fact 3G subscribers comprised 15% of the total mobile subscriber base by September 2015. The overall mobile market claimed 140 million subscribers by mid-2014. However, coming into 2015, the sector then encountered a major problem when the government ordered re-verification of SIMs for security reasons. This saw a dramatic drop in total subscribers. Mobile penetration fell from 77% in June 2014 to 61% twelve months later. All signs in the second half of 2015 were pointing to a quick recovery.

Internet penetration remained low across the country. Broadband growth had almost been negligible for some years, but there were some positive signs in recent years. The big change has been the arrival of mobile broadband on a large scale in 2014. This has boosted overall broadband growth, helped also by intense competition in the market place. Of course, the granting of 3G - and 4G - licences in 2014 had certainly changed the broadband landscape.

As for the regulatory environment, the government had in fact started to assign the 3G licences way back in 2007. But delay after delay had occurred, much of which had not been properly explained by the authorities. Whilst the regulatory authorities had badly fumbled the task of auctioning the 3G licences, there was much of a positive nature in the Pakistan government’s opening up of the telecom market. The progressive implementation of the reform plans over a number of years had triggered a period of strong growth in the local telecom market. Up until recently the energy and growth was predominantly in mobile services; as the mobile market moderates, the focus has shifted to broadband access in its various forms.

In the meantime, there has been no significant activity in fixed-line services as originally intended and in fact subscriptions in this sector are in decline. The government had initially focused on fixed lines setting out ambitious plans to increase fixed-line teledensity. After peaking at around 4% in 2008, fixed penetration had fallen to around 3% coming into 2015. And, at the same time, the majority of these fixed lines were in urban areas. A more balanced distribution would certainly be desirable in the longer term as 70% of Pakistan’s population live in rural areas.

Control of internet content remained a big issue in Pakistan. The government has directed that the monitoring of websites for ‘anti-Islam content’ be undertaken by the PTA, the telecom regulator. Amid growing concern about greater restrictions on internet access in the country, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HCRP), an independent body, has said that about 13,000 sites were inaccessible. The regulator said that the figure was closer to 2,000 sites.

Key developments:

total investment in the country’s telecom sector was steadily picking up after hitting a low point;
the government issued an urgent directive in early 2015 requiring re-verification of SIMs;
SIMs not verified were blocked, resulting in a dramatic fall in mobile subscriber numbers;
mobile subscriber numbers had fallen 18% in the year to June 2015;
Mobilink remained the largest mobile player by subscribers with 29% market share;
mobile operators Mobilink and Warid Telecom had reportedly agreed to merge;
3G subscribers comprised 15% of the total mobile subscriber base by September 2015;
PTCL claimed 96% of the declining fixed wireline subscriber market as of mid-2015;
government efforts to exercise control over the internet continue to draw criticism;
the E-Government Strategy for 2012-2015 is ongoing, as Pakistan tries to lift its lowly ranking;
mobile broadband services have totally overwhelmed the fixed broadband sector of the market;
fixed broadband penetration was around 1% into 2015;
mobile broadband penetration was 10% by mid-2015, with annual growth of around 100%;
the MoITT sent the draft Telecommunications Policy 2015 to Cabinet for approval;
Public Call Offices (PCOs) numbers fell dramatically from 289,000 in 2013 to 53,900 in 2015.

Companies mentioned in this report

Pakistan Telecommunication Co Ltd (PTCL), Mobilink (PMCL), Ufone (PTML, PTCL’s subsidiary), Telenor Pakistan, Warid Telecom, Zong (CMPak), WorldCall, TeleCard, Dancom Pakistan, FLAG Telecom Group, Special Communication Organization (SCO), National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC), Instaphone (Pakcom), Wateen Telecom.


  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  • KEY STATISTICS
    • Table Country statistics - 2015
    • Table Telecom revenue and investment statistics - 2015
    • Table Telephone network statistics - June 2015
    • Table Internet user statistics - September 2015
    • Table Mobile statistics - September 2015
    • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • COUNTRY OVERVIEW
      • Background
      • Economy
        • Table Pakistan's real GDP growth rate - 2005 - 2016
  • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
    • OVERVIEW
    • REVENUE AND INVESTMENT LEVELS
      • Table Pakistan's total telecom revenue - 2004 - 2015; 2020
      • Table Pakistan's telecom investment - total and mobile - 2004 - 2015
    • FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT (FDI)
      • Table Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in telecom sector - 2002 - 2015
  • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
    • OVERVIEW
    • REGULATORY AUTHORITIES
      • Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT)
      • Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)
      • Problems undermining PTA's regulatory role
      • North Waziristan Agency (NWA)
      • Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
      • Shut down of mobile networks - 2012 - 2015
    • TELECOM SECTOR LIBERALISATION - BACKGROUND
    • TELECOM POLICY - 2015
    • REGULATORY DEVELOPMENTS
      • Internet tax
      • Proposed new spectrum auction
      • International Clearing House (ICH) - background
      • International Clearing House (ICH) - developments and demise
      • Special regions of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K)
      • Infrastructure sharing
      • Zong's complaint to PTA
      • Censorship
  • FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS
    • OVERVIEW AND STATISTICS
      • Table `Fixed-line' licences issued by PTA - 2014
      • Table Fixed-line (wireline) subscribers by operator - June 2015
      • Table Fixed-line (wireless) subscribers by operator - 2013
      • Table Fixed-line (wireless) subscribers by operator - June 2015
    • PAKISTAN TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANY LIMITED (PTCL)
      • Overview
        • Table PTCL fixed wireline subscribers - 2000 - 2015
        • Table PTCL WLL (fixed wireless) subscribers - 2005 - 2015
      • Background
      • Financial performance
      • Privatisation of PTCL
    • OTHER FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS
      • WorldCall group
        • Table WorldCall's WLL (fixed wireless) subscribers - 2005 - 2015
        • Table WorldCall's fixed wireline subscribers - 2005 - 2015
      • TeleCard
        • Table TeleCard's WLL (fixed) subscribers - 2005 - 2015
      • Wateen Telecom
        • Table Wateen Telecom's WLL (fixed) subscribers - 2008 - 2015
      • Licensing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
  • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
    • NATIONAL TELECOM NETWORK
      • Overview
      • Fixed line statistics
        • Table Historical - fixed-line subscribers and penetration - 1991 - 2005
        • Table Fixed-line subscribers and penetration - 2006 - 2015
        • Table Fixed wireline subscribers - 2004 - 2015
        • Table Fixed wireline v. fixed wireless (WLL) subscribers - 2004 - 2015
        • Table Fixed wireline subscribers by operator and market share - June 2015
        • Table WLL subscribers - 2005 - 2015
        • Table Fixed-line (wireless) subscribers by operator - June 2015
      • Forecasts - fixed line subscribers - 2015; 2017; 2020
        • Table Forecast fixed line subscribers - 2015; 2017; 2020
      • Wireless Local Loop (WLL)
      • Worldcall Telecom in dispute with PTA
      • Universal Service Fund (USF)
      • Fibre optic networks
      • Broadband networks
      • Payphones and Public Call Offices (PCOs)
        • Table Public Call Offices (PCOs) - 1999 - 2015
      • Backhaul
    • INTERNATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE
      • International gateways
      • Pakistan-India link
      • Submarine cable networks
      • Satellite networks and systems
    • VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL (VOIP)
  • INTERNET MARKET
    • OVERVIEW
    • INTERNET AND BROADBAND STATISTICS
      • Table Historical - internet users - 1995 - 2005
      • Table Internet users and user penetration - 2006 - 2015
      • Table Fixed internet subscribers - 1997; 2000 - 2015
      • Table Historical - dial-up internet subscribers - 2005 - 2011
      • Table Total broadband subscribers - 2004 - 2014
      • Table Total broadband subscribers - 2015
      • Table Fixed broadband subscribers - 2004 - 2015
      • Table Fixed broadband subscribers - 2004 - 2015
      • Table Broadband subscribers and market share by technology - September 2015
      • Table Fixed broadband subscribers and households - June 2015
      • Table Mobile broadband subscribers - 2015
      • Table Total international internet bandwidth - 2004 - 2015
    • FORECASTS - INTERNET MARKET - 2015; 2017; 2020
      • Scenario forecasts
        • Table Forecast fixed broadband internet subscribers - 2015; 2017; 2020
    • INTERNET CONTROL AND CENSORSHIP
      • Developments
      • Background
    • ISP MARKET
      • ISPs
  • BROADBAND MARKET
    • OVERVIEW
      • Table Broadband subscribers by type - 2009; 2012 - 2015
      • Table Mobile broadband subscribers - 2009 - 2015
    • BACKGROUND
    • NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS CORP (NTC)
      • Developments
        • Table PTCL broadband subscribers - 2007 - 2014
    • DIGITAL SUBSCRIBER LINE (DSL)
      • Table DSL broadband subscribers - 2005 - 2015
    • FIBRE-TO-THE-HOME (FTTH)
      • Table FttH subscribers - 2007 - 2015
    • CABLE MODEM
      • Table Cable modem subscribers - 2008 - 2014
    • WIRELESS BROADBAND
      • Table Wireless broadband subscribers - 2008 - 2015
      • WiMAX
        • Table WiMAX subscribers - 2008 - 2015
      • Internet via satellite
  • DIGITAL MEDIA
    • MARKET OVERVIEW
      • Table Key broadcasting statistics - 2014
    • REGULATORY ISSUES
      • Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance 2002
      • Digital terrestrial broadcasting
    • FREE-TO-AIR (FTA) BROADCASTING
      • Pakistan Television Corporation
      • Shalimar Television Network
    • PAY TV
    • CABLE TV (CATV)
      • Table Cable TV subscribers - 2003 - 2013
    • INTERNET PROTOCOL TV (IPTV)
    • DIRECT TO HOME (DTH)
  • DIGITAL ECONOMY
    • E-COMMERCE
      • Overview
      • E-commerce action plan
      • Developments
    • E-GOVERNMENT
      • Overview
      • Developments
    • E-EDUCATION
  • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
    • OVERVIEW
    • BACKGROUND TO DEVELOPMENT
    • MOBILE STATISTICS
      • Table Historical - mobile subscribers - 1995 - 2005
      • Table Mobile subscribers - 2006 - 2015
      • Table 3G mobile subscribers - 2015
      • Table 3G, 4G and LTE mobile subscribers by operator - September 2015
      • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change - June 2015
      • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and market share - June 2015
      • Table Mobile services revenue - 1998 - 2015
      • Table Mobile services revenue - 2011 - 2015
      • Table Historical - overall ARPU across all mobile operators - 2002; 2004 - 2009
    • FORECASTS - MOBILE SUBSCRIBERS - 2015; 2017; 2020
      • Scenario forecasts
        • Table Forecast mobile subscribers - 2015; 2017; 2020
    • THIRD GENERATION (3G) LICENCES
      • Background
      • Auction - April 2014
      • Licensing
      • Launch
    • FOURTH GENERATION (4G) / LONG TERM EVOLUTION (LTE)
      • Licensing
      • Launches
      • Proposed second 3G/4G auction
    • REGULATORY ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS
      • Mobile phone tax
      • Number portability (NP)
      • Control of SIMs - background
      • Control of SIMs - re-verification programme - 2015
      • Control of SIMs - Afghan services
    • MOBILE VOICE SERVICES
      • Prepaid
        • Table Proportion of prepaid mobile subscribers - 2005 - 2015
    • MOBILE DATA SERVICES
      • Short Message Service (SMS)
      • Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
      • Blackberry
      • Mobile TV
      • M-commerce / m-banking
      • Innovation in mobile financial services
    • MOBILE OPERATORS
      • Mobile operator statistics
        • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change - June 2015
        • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and market share - May 2014
        • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and market share - June 2015
      • Mobilink (PMCL)
        • Table Mobilink (PCML) mobile subscribers - 2000 - 2015
        • Table Mobilink - 3G subscribers - 2015
      • Ufone (PTCL)
        • Table Ufone (PTCL) subscribers - 2001 - 2015
        • Table Ufone - 3G subscribers - 2015
      • Telenor Pakistan
        • Table Telenor Pakistan subscribers - 2005 - 2015
        • Table Telenor - 3G subscribers - 2015
        • Table Telenor Pakistan - ARPU - 2009 - 2014
      • Warid Telecom
        • Table Warid Telecom subscribers - 2005 - 2015
        • Table Warid - 4G/LTE subscribers - 2015
      • Zong
        • Table Zong mobile subscribers - 2000 - 2015
        • Table Zong - 3G subscribers - 2014 - 2015
        • Table Zong - 4G subscribers - 2015
      • Instaphone (Pakcom)
        • Table Historical - Instaphone (Pakcom) subscribers - 2000 - 2010
      • Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)

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