‘Knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing be­tween Saarc mem­bers can help our coun­tries’

Voice&Data - - SAARC INTERVIEW - —Walid Ir­shaid Malini N

Walid Ir­shaid, CEO and pres­i­dent, PTCL held the reins of Pak­istan Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­pany Lim­ited (PTCL) in March 2007. He has been in­stru­men­tal in boost­ing the lead­er­ship po­si­tion of PTCL. He has con­trib­uted im­mensely in el­e­vat­ing PTCL through an im­pres­sive growth and by main­tain­ing the com­pet­i­tive mar­ket edge. PTCL launched broad­band in 2007 and the ser­vice is avail­able in over 1,100 cities and towns across Pak­istan. Re­cently, Ir­shaid was fa­cil­i­tated with Tele­times In­ter­na­tional Lead­er­ship award for best broad­band ser­vices. He has been driv­ing PTCL to­wards suc­cess.

He held lead­er­ship roles with Eti­salat for 16 years; led In­vest­com in Le­banon and Pal­tel in Pales­tine; and as pres­i­dent, FLAG Tele­com Mid­dle East & Africa gar­nered im­mense ex­pe­ri­ence. He has spear­headed a mul­ti­tude of mil­lion dol­lar projects in both pub­lic and pri­vate do­main re­lated to both in­fra­struc­ture and ad­vanced VAS.

Speak­ing exclusivel­y to VOICE&DATA, Ir­shaid shares the on go­ing de­vel­op­ments in Pak­istan telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor and PTCL while also em­pha­siz­ing on the need for mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion from Saarc coun­tries to­wards the bet­ter­ment of the in­dus­try in par­tic­u­lar and em­pow­er­ment of peo­ple on whole. Ex­cerpts

CEO and pres­i­dent, PTCL

Are you in talks with any PC/ hand­set ven­dor for de­vel­op­ing the ac­cess de­vice for the broad­band net­work? If no, why; if yes how?

PTCL re­mains the largest and fastest grow­ing broad­band ser­vice provider in Pak­istan. Our DSL cus­tomer base has reg­is­tered an in­crease of 50%, with 95% mar­ket share. PTCL is the leader in wire­less and wire­line broad­band in Pak­istan. PTCL is lead­ing the broad­band rev­o­lu­tion in the coun­try from the front. Through its pol­icy of up­grad­ing and ex­pand­ing its broad­band reach—both on its tra­di­tional cop­per net­work and through the de­vel­op­ment of its fiber op­tic net­work—ptcl has man­aged to firmly place it­self as the undis­puted leader in the broad­band sec­tor in the coun­try.

In the first quar­ter of the cur­rent year, PTCL launched Pak­istan’s first ever 3G en­abled tablet with built-in EVO Wire­less Broad­band. ‘3G EVO Tab’ is a 7-inch touch screen tablet, which is pow­ered by Google Android Froyo 2.2 op­er­at­ing sys­tem, it of­fers sup­port for both 3G and Wi-fi for

un­in­ter­rupted and on-the-go in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity. EVO Wire­less Broad­band is en­abling the wire­less broad­band rev­o­lu­tion in Pak­istan with flex­i­bil­ity to roam freely like never be­fore. PTCL EVO has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way peo­ple con­nect to the in­ter­net by of­fer­ing true mo­bil­ity.

3G EVO Tab is the most re­cent of all our in­no­va­tions that PTCL is pro­duc­ing in line with our vi­sion of in­tro­duc­ing fu­ture based com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy. We are con­stantly in­no­vat­ing and im­prov­ing our cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

What, ac­cord­ing to you, will help build the right mo­bile broad­band ecosys­tem? What are the loop­holes for this ecosys­tem in your coun­try?

Would like to talk a lit­tle about 3G be­cause it is like talk­ing about to­tal­ing your in­vest­ments. 3G is not go­ing to be an in­fra­struc­ture laid for the voice. Even to­day, most peo­ple use it on 2G. 3G is pri­mar­ily in­tended to bring in­ter­net and fast speed broad­band on to the web. But in the cur­rent in­dus­trial environmen­t in Pak­istan, 3G can­not sus­tain. No op­er­a­tor can run and de­ploy qual­ity ser­vices on 3G with these rev­enue fig­ures or mar­gin fig­ures. There can­not be 5 3G op­er­a­tors here. There has to be only 2-3 good 3G op­er­a­tors. They must not en­ter into a price war, which we have seen in the case of 2G ed­i­fice. There has to be a bet­ter con­trol even with the re­gres­sive regimes to con­trol the price. Op­er­a­tors must be able to pro­vide qual­ity ser­vice. 3G will re­quire three times more in­fra­struc­ture be­cause of the fre­quency spec­trum, and op­er­a­tors need to de­ploy more play sta­tions.

With these fig­ures it will be a chal­lenge and op­er­a­tors will strug­gle. They can con­trol it by first of all mak­ing sure that only se­lected, se­ri­ous, and com­mit­ted op­er­a­tors come for­ward. There has to be a few se­lected ones and they have to avoid the price wars, which re­ally tends to de­stroy the valid po­si­tion to the cus­tomers and to the op­er­a­tors. Also, 3G can­not be of­fered with­out qual­ity.

From the in­ter­net down­loads of the Pak­istani peo­ple, we can de­ter­mine that the Pak­istani mar­ket is ab­so­lutely ready. In com­par­i­son to Europe, US, or even the Far East; the num­ber of hours spend on the in­ter­net and down­loads is far more in Pak­istan. For ex­am­ple, the av­er­age down­load for Pak­istani con­sumers in broad­band is around 18-20GB, while in the US, it doesn’t even ex­ceed 5 GB. To­day, broad­band is used not merely for play­ing games but also for busi­ness.

What are the chal­lenges of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in Pak­istan?

Lib­er­al­iza­tion of the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor hap­pened in Pak­istan at one stroke. To­day, there are com­pa­nies like Te­lenor, Warid, Mo­bilink, and Zong in Pak­istan. Although they are large com­pa­nies, how­ever they don’t have fi­nan­cial com­fort be­cause of the ero­sion of rates and stiff com­pe­ti­tion. To­day, the rates Pak­istani con­sumers pay for us­ing mo­bile and cel­lu­lar are the cheap­est in the world be­cause of com­pe­ti­tion and dereg­u­la­tion. But I also think that the dereg­u­la­tion pol­icy was strength of PTCL is the qual­ity and re­sources of our pro­fes­sional peo­ple. We have a huge reser­voir of in-house pro­fes­sion­ally trained peo­ple from which PTCL and the whole coun­try is ben­e­fit­ing.

Do you think co­op­er­a­tion from other Saarc reg­u­la­tors could in­crease pen­e­tra­tion in your coun­try? If no, why; if yes, how?

Co­op­er­a­tion among Saarc reg­u­la­tors will al­ways help. I feel that as a reg­u­la­tor, the Pak­istan Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity is ahead of other Saarc reg­u­la­tors to the ex­tent that they have de­vel­oped very lib­eral telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and me­dia reg­u­la­tory regimes, which can be demon­strated from the num­ber and types of li­censed op­er­a­tors cur­rently in Pak­istan. Also, knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing be­tween Saarc mem­bers can help our coun­tries to ad­dress com­mon prob­lems such as dig­i­tal di­vide, ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, and spread of ed­u­ca­tion. To­gether,

The Pak­istan Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity is ahead of other Saarc reg­u­la­tors to the ex­tent that they have de­vel­oped very lib­eral telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and me­dia reg­u­la­tory regimes

a lit­tle bit too lib­eral and too ad­vanced for this mar­ket. Even to­day in the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, reg­u­la­tors are guard­ing the prices. They don’t al­low op­er­a­tors to de­cline rev­enues and of­fers, and just of­fer prices like this. This mar­ket will have to con­sol­i­date. Other­wise, it will be a los­ing propo­si­tion for ev­ery op­er­a­tor.

What are the core strength ar­eas of PTCL?

PTCL’S core strengths are its vast in­fra­struc­ture spread all over the coun­try, cut­ting edge in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nolo­gies, and ever-im­prov­ing cus­tomer care net­work and ser­vices.

We are the sin­gle big­gest op­er­a­tor with a national cov­er­age. An­other key

For more re­lated ar­ti­cles go to voicen­data.com

we must de­velop and pro­mote these as South Asia’s strong so­cio-eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors.

What is your year-on-year in­vest­ment?

PTCL has been in­vest­ing con­stantly $150200 mn a year. If we con­sider our group in­vest­ments—in­clud­ing our cel­lu­lar sub­sidiary Ufone—it comes up to $400500 mn a year. Since Eti­salat ac­quired 26% strate­gic shares in the PTCL group in 2006, sub­stan­tial in­vest­ments have been made in en­hanc­ing and con­sol­i­dat­ing its in­fra­struc­ture. Eti­salat has come to Pak­istan as a long-term in­vestor. We have no reser­va­tions about mak­ing the right in­vest­ments at the right time, and we are al­ways con­sid­er­ing long-term in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in this coun­try.

ma­linin@cy­ber­me­dia.co.in

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