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Pakistan - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts


Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

The 3G fiasco has been an ominous cloud hanging over Pakistan’s otherwise energetic telecom sector

The progressive implementation of the Pakistan government’s reform plans over a number of years has 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.

Earlier on Pakistan’s telecom market struggled with the transition from a regulated state-owned monopoly to a deregulated and competitive environment. The government initially focused on fixed lines setting out ambitious plans to increase fixed-line teledensity from 2.5% in 2002 to 7% (around 10 million fixed lines) by 2010. This target became impossible to achieve in time. After peaking at around 4% in 2008, fixed penetration had fallen to 3.5% coming into 2012. And, at the same time, the majority of these fixed lines were in urban areas. A more balanced distribution is certainly desirable in the longer term as 70% of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas. Some good news in the fixed-line market came with the arrival of Wireless Local Loop (WLL) services and the licensing of a multitude of WLL operators. This technology has helped sustain what there is of a fixed-line segment. WLL services constituted around 50% of the total fixed-line subscriber base by 2011.

Meanwhile, the focus of the market changed; the whole telecom landscape in Pakistan having shifted to mobile services with a phenomenal expansion occurring in this sector from 2005/2006 onwards. Over the same planning period that the government was setting its fixed line target – from 2002 to 2010 – the number of mobile subscribers jumped from less than two million to 100 million. Interestingly, despite the significant tightening of the national economy during 2009 the mobile market continued to expand at an annual rate of between 5% and 10%. Subscriber numbers had increased to 120 million by early 2012. The mobile networks were already covering well in excess of 90% of the population and this coverage was continuing to be expanded.

While mobile penetration was around 70% and continuing on its growth path, internet penetration remained at relatively low levels coming into 2012. Broadband growth had been of particular concern with almost negligible growth for many years; finally, 2008/09 saw a promising upsurge in broadband subscriptions and this fresh growth pattern growth looked to be continuing, boosted by the spread of competition throughout the market and the increased adoption of wireless broadband solutions. By the start of 2012 broadband services made up around 40% of all internet subscriptions. Broadband penetration remained relatively low – still less than 1% - by that stage. For the wider view of the online market, although estimates vary, there were around 16 million internet users in the country by early 2012. This was a huge jump from around 0.5 million users a decade earlier. As already noted, the dominant mode of internet access remained dial-up for the moment, although this was most assuredly about to change.

Meanwhile, with slowing subscriber growth, mobile operators have started to shift their focus to value-added services. In this regard, the operators were not surprisingly keen to see the issuing of 3G licences. The government had started a process to assign these licences back in 2007. By early 2012 however there had been no licences issues. Delay after delay had occurred, much of which had not been properly explained. By May 2012 the regulator was saying that 3G licences were unlikely to be awarded until the end of 2012 when the long-awaited frequency spectrum auction would be held. The 3G fiasco has generally presented an ominous cloud over an otherwise energetic telecom sector in Pakistan.

Control of internet content remained a big issue in Pakistan coming into 2102. Back in 2010 the government directed that the monitoring of websites for ‘anti-Islam content’ be undertaken by the PTA, the telecom regulator. By March 2012, amid growing concern about greater restrictions on internet access in the country, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HCRP), an independent body, said that already about 13,000 sites were inaccessible. The regulator said that the figure was closer to 2,000 sites.

Key highlights

Despite overall slowing in the telecom market, Pakistan continued to grow its the mobile sector;

Mobile subscriber numbers were growing at around 10% annually in 2011/2012, modest growth indeed compared with the earlier boom years;

By mid-2012 there were around 120 million mobile subscribers for a penetration of close to 70%;

Five mobile operators were competing vigorously for a share of the subscriber base and the revenue, each claiming a healthy share of the market;

In a major disappointment for the local industry, Pakistan’s proposed auction for 3G licences continued to be delayed;

Pakistan’s broadband internet penetration still remained low in relative terms (only around 1% coming into 2012), there has been a significant surge in broadband services;

The growth in wireless-based broadband has been especially important, representing around half the subscriptions into 2012;

Growth in the country’s fixed-line market remained sluggish; fixed teledensity stand at less than 4% into 2011 with the numbers actually falling;

One positive factor in the fixed market has been the success of wireless local loop technology which was supporting half of all fixed subscribers and still growing.

Pakistan: - Key telecom subscribers – 2011 - 2012
Category | 2011 | 2012 (e)

Fixed-line services: | |

Total No. of subscribers | 5.7 million | 5.6 million

Broadband: | |

Total No. of subscribers | 1.8 million | 2.5 million

Mobile services: | |

Total No. of subscribers | 113 million | 125 million
(Source: BuddeComm)

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.


1. Key Statistics
1.1 Country overview
1.1.1 Background
1.1.2 Economy
2. Telecommunications Market
2.1 Overview
2.2 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
3. Regulatory Environment
3.1 Overview
3.2 Background to development
3.3 Regulatory authorities
3.3.1 Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT)
3.3.2 Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)
3.3.3 PTA’s administrative actions
3.4 Telecom sector liberalisation
3.5 Regulatory developments
3.5.1 Restriction on number of SIMs
3.5.2 Operators accused of tax evasion
3.5.3 PTCL accused of anti-competitive practices
3.5.4 Dispute over origination charges resolved
3.5.5 Management of subscriber base
3.5.6 Special regions of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K)
3.5.7 Third Generation (3G) licensing
3.5.8 National numbering scheme
3.5.9 Number portability (NP)
3.5.10 Infrastructure sharing
3.5.11 Security
3.5.12 Censorship
4. Fixed Network Market
4.1 Overview
4.2 Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL)
4.2.1 Overview
4.2.2 Background
4.2.3 PTCL and the regulation of tariffs
4.2.4 Financial performance
4.2.5 Privatisation of PTCL
4.3 Other fixed network operators
4.3.1 WorldCall group
4.3.2 TeleCard
4.3.3 Licensing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
5. Major Operators
5.1 Overview
5.2 Mobile operator statistics
5.3 Mobilink (PMCL)
5.3.1 Overview
5.3.2 Background
5.3.3 WiMAX
5.4 Ufone (PTCL)
5.4.1 Overview
5.4.2 Background
5.5 Telenor Pakistan
5.5.1 Overview
5.5.2 Background
5.5.3 Network development
5.5.4 Third Generation (3G) licence
5.5.5 Telenor’s Rabta Centres
5.5.6 Solar-powered network
5.6 Warid Telecom
5.6.1 Overview
5.6.2 Background
5.6.3 Solar-powered network
5.7 Zong
5.7.1 Overview
5.7.2 Background
5.7.3 Millicom’s exit
5.7.4 China Mobile takes control
5.8 Instaphone (Pakcom)
6. Telecommunications Infrastructure
6.1 National telecom network
6.1.1 Overview
6.1.2 Fixed line statistics
6.1.3 Opening up of market
6.1.4 Rural services
6.1.5 Universal Service Fund (USF)
6.1.6 Mobile services
6.1.7 Fibre optic networks
6.1.8 Broadband networks
6.1.9 Payphones and Public Call Offices (PCOs)
6.1.10 Wireless Local Loop (WLL)
6.1.11 Next Generation Networks (NGNs)
6.2 International infrastructure
6.2.1 International gateways
6.2.2 Pakistan-India link
6.2.3 Submarine cable networks
6.2.4 Satellite networks and systems
6.3 Infrastructure developments
6.3.1 Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
7. Internet Market
7.1 Overview
7.2 Background
7.3 Major government initiatives
7.4 Internet control and censorship
7.4.1 Government firewall
7.5 ISP market
7.5.1 ISPs
7.5.2 Market developments
7.6 Internet and broadband statistics
8. Broadband Market
8.1 Overview
8.1.1 Infrastructure development
8.1.2 Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL)
8.2 Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
8.3 Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH)
8.4 Cable modem
8.5 Wireless broadband
8.5.1 WiMAX
8.5.2 Internet via satellite
8.6 Long Term Evolution (LTE)
9. Digital Media / Digital Economy
9.1 E-commerce
9.1.1 E-commerce action plan
9.2 E-government
10. Mobile Communications
10.1 Pakistan’s mobile market
10.1.1 Overview
10.1.2 Customer satisfaction
10.1.3 Background to development
10.1.4 Mobile statistics
10.2 Additional mobile licences
10.3 Third Generation (3G) licences
10.4 Regulatory issues and developments
10.4.1 Number portability
10.4.2 Unregistered SIMs
10.4.3 Consumer rights
10.4.4 Licensing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
10.5 Mobile voice services
10.5.1 Prepaid
10.5.2 Satellite mobile
10.6 Mobile data services
10.6.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
10.6.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
10.6.3 Blackberry
10.6.4 Mobile TV
10.6.5 M-commerce / mobile banking
10.6.6 Innovation in mobile financial services
11. Forecasts
11.1 Forecasts – internet market – 2015; 2020
11.2 Forecast – fixed-line market – 2015; 2020
11.3 Forecast – mobile market – 2015; 2020
11.4 Notes on forecasting
12. Related reports
List of Tables, Charts and Exhibits
Table 1 – Country statistics – 2012
Table 2 – Telecom revenue and investment statistics – 2010
Table 3 – Telephone network statistics – 2011
Table 4 – Internet user statistics – 2011
Table 5 – Mobile statistics – May 2012
Table 6 – National telecommunications authorities
Table 7 – Pakistan’s real GDP growth rate – 2005 - 2013
Table 8 – Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in telecom sector – 2002 - 2011
Table 9 – ‘Fixed-line’ licences issued by PTA – 2011
Table 10 – Fixed-line subscribers by operator – June 2011
Table 11 – PTCL fixed wireline subscribers – 2000 - 2011
Table 12 – WorldCall’s WLL (fixed) subscribers – 2005 - 2012
Table 13 – WorldCall’s fixed wireline subscribers – 2005 - 2011
Table 14 – TeleCard’s WLL (fixed) subscribers – 2005 - 2012
Table 15 – Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change – May 2012
Table 16 – Mobile operators, subscribers and market share – May 2012
Table 17 – Mobilink (PCML) subscribers – 2000 - 2012
Table 18 – Ufone (PTCL) subscribers – 2001 - 2012
Table 19 – Telenor Pakistan subscribers – 2005 - 2012
Table 20 – Warid Telecom subscribers – 2005 - 2012
Table 21 – Zong subscribers – 2000 - 2012
Table 22 – Instaphone (Pakcom) subscribers – 2000 - 2010
Table 23 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1991 - 2012
Table 24 – Fixed wireline subscribers – 2004 - 2011
Table 25 – Fixed wireline v. fixed wireless (WLL) subscribers – 2004 - 2012
Table 26 – Fixed wireline subscribers by operator and market share – 2011
Table 27 – Growth in Public Call Offices (PCOs) – 1999 - 2009
Table 28 – WLL subscribers – 2005 - 2012
Table 29 – WLL subscribers by operator and market share – March 2012
Table 30 – Internet users – 1995 - 2012
Table 31 – Internet subscribers – 1997; 2000 - 2012
Table 32 – Broadband subscribers – 2004 - 2012
Table 33 – Broadband subscribers by technology – 2012
Table 34 – Broadband subscribers and households – 2011
Table 35 – Total international internet bandwidth – 2004 - 2011
Table 36 – Broadband subscribers by type – 2009 - 2012
Table 37 – PTCL broadband subscribers – 2007 - 2011
Table 38 – DSL broadband subscribers – 2005 - 2012
Table 39 – FttH subscribers – 2007 - 2012
Table 40 – WiMAX subscribers – 2008 - 2012
Table 41 – Mobile subscribers – 1995 - 2012
Table 42 – Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change – May 2012
Table 43 – Mobile operators, subscribers and market share – May 2012
Table 44 – Mobile services revenue – 1998 - 2011
Table 45 – Overall ARPU across all mobile operators – 2002; 2004 - 2009
Table 46 – Mobile monthly ARPU by operator – 2009
Table 47 – Proportion of prepaid mobile subscribers – 2005 - 2011
Table 48 – Forecast internet subscribers – 2015; 2020
Table 49 – Forecast fixed line subscribers – 2015; 2020
Table 50 – Forecast mobile subscribers – 2015; 2020
Chart 1 - GDP growth rate – 2005 - 2013
Chart 2 - Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in telecom sector – 2002 - 2011
Chart 3 - PTCL fixed wireline subscribers – 2000 - 2012
Chart 4 - Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change - May 2012
Chart 5 - Mobile operators, subscribers and market share - May 2012
Chart 6 - Mobilink (PCML) subscribers – 2000 - 2012
Chart 7 - Ufone (PTCL) subscribers - 2001-2012
Chart 8 - Telenor Pakistan subscribers – 2005 - 2012
Chart 9 - Warid Telecom subscribers – 2005 - 2012
Chart 10 - Zong subscribers – 2000 - 2012
Chart 11 - Instaphone (Pakcom) subscribers – 2000 - 2009
Chart 12 - Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 2001 - 2012(e)
Chart 13 - Fixed wireline vs. fixed wireless subscribers – 2004 - 2012
Chart 14 - Growth in Public Call Offices – 1999 - 2009
Chart 15 - WLL subscribers by operator and market share – March 2012
Chart 16 - Internet users – 2000 - 2012
Chart 17 - Internet and broadband subscribers – 2004 - 2012
Chart 18 - Broadband subscribers by type – 2009 - 2012
Chart 19 - Broadband, FttH and WIMAX subscribers – 2008 - 2012
Chart 20 - Mobile subscribers – 2000 - 2012
Chart 21 - Mobile operators, subscribers and market share – May 2012
Chart 22 - Mobile services revenue – 1998 - 2011
Chart 23 - Proportion of prepaid mobile subscribers – 2005 - 2011
Exhibit 1 – Long Distance International (LDI) licensees – 2011
Exhibit 2 – Local Loop (LL) licensees – 2011
Exhibit 3 – Wireless Local Loop (WLL) licensees and status – 2011
Exhibit 4 – PTCL subsidiary companies
Exhibit 5 – Joint ventures and affiliated companies

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