Tele­com in Pak­istan: ‘Vi­sion 2020’

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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

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