Thursday 7 February 2019

The potential that is Pakistan

Its been an eventful five years for Pakistan’s mobile industry. The South Asian country has seen a dramatic increase in mobile broadband penetration and the introduction of 3G/4G services has impacted the lives of millions. 

In December 2017, 3G/4G subscribers in Pakistan numbered 47 Million.  According to a recent report issued by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), at the end of December 2018, there were 62 million 3G/4G Subscribers in Pakistan with penetration rate of 29.55%. That is a very significant increase indeed.

However in a country so large and populous, their mobile broadband market is still considered to be at an early stage of development with penetration well below most other Asian countries. Strong growth is predicted over the next five years to 2023, driven by further adoption of 4G and eventually 5G services. The uptake of 3G/4G has been quite impressive that has given the government and the mobile operators the confidence to look forward to 5G.

Presently four mobile operators provide services to the country. Here are there most recent market shares/figures. 


Jazz (created by the merger of Mobilink and Warid) is the current market leader with the largest number of subscribers. In 2016/7 they merged with Warid and adopted Warid's 4G network and offer their 4G/LTE to all of their customers as a single brand. In 2017 they received an own license for 4G on 1800 MHz (band 3). Their tagline is “Dunya ko Bataa Do” (tell the world) and their partnering with travel vlogger Eva Zu Beck to showcase their coverage and the culture of Pakistan has been a popular advertising strategy. 

Norwegian owned Telenor is the third largest operator in the country. They cover more than 80% of Pakistan's population in urban and rural areas with a network of over 11,000 cell sites of which 80% are 3G and 70% are 4G enabled. 

4G/LTE was started in August 2016 in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Sawaton on 850 MHz (band 5) and has spread to other major towns. Telenor was the first network to enable VoLTE and officially launch 4.5G (LTE Advanced) in Pakistan. It has done so by aggregating two LTE bands, FDD-LTE Band 5 (850 MHz) and FDD-LTE Band 3 (1800 MHz), a portion of which has been re-farmed for LTE, it was previously used on the 2G (GPRS/EDGE) network. Telenor's new LTE-A network will initially be available in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Zong in Pakistan is owned by China Mobile Pakistan. It has a limited network on 3G in many towns but was the first to launch  4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (band 3) in the centers of 7 major cites in 2014. It presently has over 9 million 4G subscribers, more than any other network.  
According to Zong when it comes to 4G coverage, subscribers, internet speed and innovation, no other network can reach the heights of Pakistan’s No.1 data network. They more than 10,000 4G towers with plans in place to launch 5,000 more 4G sites in the next 3 years.

Ufone owned by Etisalat is the fourth operator in the country. It has 3G network coverage in over 9,000 locations and across all major highways of Pakistan. There is no 4G/LTE yet.
A recent Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) survey found Ufone takes 5.73 seconds to connect a call, the fastest among all networks in the country.

2018 was a great year for Pakistan’s Technology industry with substantial growth and development in IT Sector and for 3G/4G penetration. Supported by growing tech-savvy population, increasing businesses and rising internet penetration, Pakistan is destined to become one of the fastest growing economy by 2030 and has the potential to be one of the  leading digital economies. There is a lot of promise in the IT sector of Pakistan with young population turning to computers and other digital technologies creating a huge market for local and foreign investors.

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