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Pakistan - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts


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Pakistan - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts

With a rudderless regulator, Pakistan’s telecom industry continues to wait for the 3G auction

Mobile operators in Pakistan have started to shift their focus to value-added services as slowing subscriber growth starts to impact. The operators have therefore been especially keen to see the issuing of 3G licences. The government had started a process to assign these licences back in 2007. By late 2013 however there had been no licences issued. Delay after delay had occurred, much of which had not been properly explained by the authorities.

In the meantime, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) was without a chairman and key board members. A local court had found that the initial appointment of the chairman did not follow established procedures for an openly advertised role and the incumbent was removed from the position. The situation that evolved where the regulatory authority was unable to act on a range of issues was nothing short of chaotic.

The 3G fiasco combined with the PTA leadership problem presented an ominous cloud over an otherwise energetic telecom sector in Pakistan.

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. 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 half of the total fixed-line subscriber base by 2012.

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. The number of mobile subscribers jumped from less than two million to 100 million in just eight years. 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%. 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 strong and continuing on its positive 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. Broadband penetration remained relatively low, however, still sitting below 2%.

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. By 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. By 2013 the censorship of the internet by the government was becoming more intense.

Key highlights

Despite an overall slowing in the country’s telecom market, Pakistan continues to grow its mobile sector;
Mobile subscriber numbers were growing at close to 10% annually in 2011/2012, modest growth indeed compared with the earlier boom years;
By mid-2013 there were around 125 million mobile subscribers for a penetration of 70%;
Five mobile operators were competing vigorously for subscribers and revenue, all being able to claim a reasonable share of the market;
Fifth-ranked Warid Telecom, however, was struggling and by 2013 was being put up for sale by its owner the Abu Dhabi Group;
After many delays, 3G licensing looked as if it was proceeding in earnest with the auction scheduled for late 2013; it was more likely to be early 2014;
To allow the spectrum auction to happen as planned the Prime Minister had approved relevant policy directives in October 2013;
While Pakistan’s broadband internet penetration remained low in relative terms (less than 2% by mid-2013), there has been a significant surge recently in broadband services;
The growth in wireless-based broadband has been especially important, representing around over 50% of subscriptions by 2013;
Growth in the country’s fixed-line market remained sluggish, fixed teledensity standing at just over 3% in 2013, the numbers having actually fallen at times;
One positive factor in the fixed market has been the success of wireless local loop technology which was supporting just over half of all fixed subscribers and looked to still be growing.

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


  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  • KEY STATISTICS
    • Table Country statistics - 2013
    • Table Telecom revenue and investment statistics - 2011
    • Table Telephone network statistics - 2012
    • Table Internet user statistics - 2012
    • Table Mobile statistics - May 2013
    • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • COUNTRY OVERVIEW
      • Background
      • Economy
        • Table Pakistan's real GDP growth rate - 2005 - 2014
  • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
    • OVERVIEW
      • Table Pakistan's total telecom revenue - 2004 - 2012
      • Table Pakistan's telecom investment - total and mobile - 2004 - 2012
    • FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT (FDI)
      • Table Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in telecom sector - 2002 - 2011
  • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
    • OVERVIEW
    • BACKGROUND TO DEVELOPMENT
    • REGULATORY AUTHORITIES
      • Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT)
      • Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)
      • PTA's administrative actions
      • Problems undermining PTA's regulatory role
    • TELECOM SECTOR LIBERALISATION
    • REGULATORY DEVELOPMENTS
      • Late Night Phone Tariffs
      • International Clearing House
      • Operators accused of tax evasion
      • PTCL accused of anti-competitive practices
      • Dispute over origination charges resolved
      • Management of subscriber base
      • Special regions of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K)
      • National numbering scheme
      • Number portability (NP)
      • Infrastructure sharing
      • Security
      • Censorship
  • MAJOR FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS
    • OVERVIEW
      • Table `Fixed-line' licences issued by PTA - 2012
      • Table Fixed-line (wireline) subscribers by operator - June 2012
      • Table Fixed-line (wireless) subscribers by operator - September 2012
    • PAKISTAN TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANY LIMITED (PTCL)
      • Overview
        • Table PTCL fixed wireline subscribers - 2000 - 2012
        • Table PTCL WLL (fixed wireless) subscribers - 2005 - 2012
      • Background
      • PTCL and the regulation of tariffs
      • Financial performance
      • Privatisation of PTCL
    • OTHER FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS
      • WorldCall group
        • Table WorldCall's WLL (fixed wireless) subscribers - 2005 - 2012
        • Table WorldCall's fixed wireline subscribers - 2005 - 2012
      • TeleCard
        • Table TeleCard's WLL (fixed) subscribers - 2005 - 2012
      • Wateen Telecom
      • Licensing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
  • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
    • NATIONAL TELECOM NETWORK
      • Overview
      • Fixed line statistics
        • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 1991 - 2013
        • Table Fixed wireline subscribers - 2004 - 2013
        • Table Fixed wireline v. fixed wireless (WLL) subscribers - 2004 - 2013
        • Table Fixed wireline subscribers by operator and market share - June 2012
      • Opening up of market
      • Rural services
      • Universal Service Fund (USF)
      • Mobile services
      • Fibre optic networks
      • Broadband networks
      • Payphones and Public Call Offices (PCOs)
        • Table Growth in Public Call Offices (PCOs) - 1999 - 2009
      • Wireless Local Loop (WLL)
        • Table WLL subscribers - 2005 - 2013
        • Table Fixed-line (wireless) subscribers by operator - September 2012
      • Next Generation Networks (NGNs)
      • Backhaul
    • INTERNATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE
      • International gateways
      • Pakistan-India link
      • Submarine cable networks
      • Satellite networks and systems
    • INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENTS
      • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
  • INTERNET MARKET
    • OVERVIEW
    • BACKGROUND
    • INTERNET AND BROADBAND STATISTICS
      • Table Internet users - 1995 - 2013
      • Table Fixed internet subscribers - 1997; 2000 - 2013
      • Table Broadband subscribers - 2004 - 2013
      • Table Broadband subscribers by technology - 2012 - 2013
      • Table Broadband subscribers and households - April 2013
      • Table Total international internet bandwidth - 2004 - 2013
    • MAJOR GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES
    • INTERNET CONTROL AND CENSORSHIP
    • ISP MARKET
      • ISPs
  • BROADBAND MARKET
    • OVERVIEW
      • Table Broadband subscribers by type - 2009: 2011 - 2013
      • Infrastructure development
      • Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL)
        • Table PTCL broadband subscribers - 2007 - 2012
    • DIGITAL SUBSCRIBER LINE (DSL)
      • Table DSL broadband subscribers - 2005 - 2013
    • FIBRE-TO-THE-HOME (FTTH)
      • Table FttH subscribers - 2007 - 2013
    • CABLE MODEM
    • WIRELESS BROADBAND
      • Table Wireless broadband subscribers - 2008 - 2013
      • WiMAX
        • Table WiMAX subscribers - 2008 - 2013
      • Internet via satellite
    • MOBILE BROADBAND
      • Table Mobile broadband subscribers - 2009 - 2013
    • LONG TERM EVOLUTION (LTE)
  • DIGITAL MEDIA / DIGITAL ECONOMY
    • E-SERVICES
      • E-commerce
      • E-government
    • BROADCASTING
      • Market overview
        • Table Key broadcasting statistics - 2012
      • Regulatory issues
      • Free-to-Air (FTA) broadcasting
      • Pay TV
      • Cable TV (CATV)
        • Table Cable TV subscribers - 2003 - 2012
      • Internet Protocol TV (IPTV)
  • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
    • OVERVIEW
    • CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
    • BACKGROUND TO DEVELOPMENT
    • MOBILE STATISTICS
      • Table Mobile subscribers - 1995 - 2013
      • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change - May 2013
      • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and market share - May 2013
      • Table Mobile services revenue - 1998 - 2012
      • Table Mobile services revenue - 2011 - 2012
      • Table Overall ARPU across all mobile operators - 2002; 2004 - 2009
      • Table Mobile monthly ARPU by operator - 2009
    • ADDITIONAL MOBILE LICENCES
    • THIRD GENERATION (3G) LICENCES
    • REGULATORY ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS
      • Number portability
      • Control of SIMs
      • Consumer rights
      • Licensing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
      • Levee on handsets
    • MOBILE VOICE SERVICES
      • Prepaid
        • Table Proportion of prepaid mobile subscribers - 2005 - 2012
      • Satellite mobile
    • MOBILE DATA SERVICES
      • Short Message Service (SMS)
      • Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
      • Blackberry
      • Mobile TV
      • M-commerce / mobile banking
      • Innovation in mobile financial services
    • MAJOR MOBILE OPERATORS
      • Overview
      • Mobile operator statistics
        • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change - March 2013
        • Table Mobile operators, subscribers and market share - March 2013
      • Mobilink (PMCL)
        • Table Mobilink (PCML) subscribers - 2000 - 2013
      • Ufone (PTCL)
        • Table Ufone (PTCL) subscribers - 2001 - 2013
      • Telenor Pakistan
        • Table Telenor Pakistan subscribers - 2005 - 2013
        • Table Telenor Pakistan - ARPU - 2009 - 2012
      • Warid Telecom
        • Table Warid Telecom subscribers - 2005 - 2013
      • Zong
        • Table Zong subscribers - 2000 - 2013
      • Instaphone (Pakcom)
        • Table Instaphone (Pakcom) subscribers - 2000 - 2010
  • FORECASTS
    • FORECAST - FIXED LINE MARKET - 2015; 2020
      • Table Forecast fixed line subscribers - 2015; 2020
    • FORECAST - MOBILE MARKET - 2015; 2020
      • Table Forecast mobile subscribers - 2015; 2020
    • FORECAST - INTERNET MARKET - 2015; 2020
      • Table Forecast internet subscribers - 2015; 2020

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