Telecom in Pakistan: ‘Vision 2020’
Pakistan’s digital growth prospects have begun to look brighter with the exponential growth of the telecom industry. This is the only sector which in the last ten years has made tremendous progress, created hundreds of thousands of jobs and led to the establishment of a big vendor industry. It has changed the culture and played a leading role in information technology boom. A Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s study, supported by Telenor, forecasts the total investments in the telecom sector to reach around $ 2.4 billion by 2020. Based on this encouraging fact, the report is titled ‘ Vision 2020’.
Prominent findings of the report estimate the revenues of telecom sector to cross Rs. 620 billion and mobile users/ subscribers would be more than 161 million by 2020, approximately 89 percent of the total population. As a resultant fact, the report predicts a decline in fixed line users to only 5 million, while broadband subscribers would go up to 19.5 million. The current financial year started with handsome Foreign Direct Investment inflows in telecommunication sector as it stood at $ 15 million in July.
This monetary upscaling is based on the improvement of telecom infrastructure and services in the Information and Communication Technology ( ICT) sector of Pakistan. Thus, it appears that ICT has become an economic reality in Pakistan, where researchers and the ICT industry professionals are working to create selfmanaging, self-repairing, inherently resilient and secure systems. Similarly, governments are trying to create an environment where businesses and public can manage their growing relationship. In Pakistan, the National ICT Research and Development Fund has launched an ICT Venture Capital Fund to attract investments in local startup companies in the Information and Communication Technologies space. The fund is expected to overcome the issues of lack of infrastructural and monetary facilities and generate monetary resources.
The telecom sector in Pakistan has contributed over Rs. 510 billion to the national savings in the last five years. At the end of 2009-10, the sector added over Rs. 109 billion in the national savings, of which General Sales Tax ( GST) was over Rs. 44 billion. The ‘ Vision 2020’ documents contains that PTA estimates the contributions to multiply manifolds after the launch of 3G services in Pakistan. PTA had announced the launching of 3G services in earlier in 2009, the technology has increased the data usage and value added services for the telecommunication users.
According to the data published by PTA, there are 5 mobile operators in the country, 14 long distance and international operators, 37 local loop operators and 11 wireless local loop operators working in the country. Pakistan cellular phone subscription witnessed constant growth amid stiff price war and services by operators, crossing 105 million mark with the teledensity reaching 63.2 percent by February 2011. Through the upward trends adopted by PTA, the sector currently contributes 2 percent of the GDP and is anticipated to grow up to 3 percent in coming years.
Also, in recent times, the $ 750 million agreements between Telenor Pakistan, Nokia and Siemens for the extension of ongoing frame agreements involving deployment of radio network equipment, core network elements and other services until 2009, reflect the confidence of three leading telecom players in the investment climate offered to them in the country.
Moreover, the government has also firmly poised to spend millions of dollars from the Universal Service Fund to add up about 1000 new BTSs ( basic transmission stations) and cell sites in remote areas which earlier were not commercially attractive for the existing players