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Cover Story

May 29 - June 04, 2000

It is difficult to forecast the future trend of Internet growth due to the current rapid and exponential technological advancements

Cyber.Net can be rightly termed as the most proactive Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Pakistan. This accreditation is based on the consistent growth in the number of users, a recent upgrade in their bandwidth and the significant increase in the number of access lines which now total to 2400. As new technology, such as Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), is making headway in Pakistan, one can expect even higher growth in the number of Internet users in the country.

Realizing that ISPs play a vital role in the use of Internet, PAGE interviewed Hasan Khan, Marketing Manager, Cyber Internet Services, to inform readers of the current ISP scenario in the country. Cyber.Net was established in 1996 and commenced its operations in March 1997. Its primary objective was to provide exceptional Internet connectivity and other web related services to individuals and business entities. Over the last three years it has managed to accommodate more than 30,000 active customers. Initially the bandwidth was 128 KB/S and PTCL had provided 300 lines. The present bandwidth of 6 MB/S would be enhanced to 10 MB/S by June this year. Till March this year, its service network was confined to Karachi but recently their services were launched in Lahore and now the ISP plans to offer services in 20 more cities.

ISPs have become an important and integral part of our daily life particularly for the business community. This is evident from nearly 70 ISPs operating in the country. The number of Internet users is estimated around 120,000, which transforms into about 45 per cent growth during last couple of years.

Explaining why one may classify Cyber.Net with an edge over most other existing ISPs, Hasan said, "Our success is due to a dedicated and professional team having a strong commitment to providing the best possible service. This is supported by superior customer services — which entails understanding their problems, addressing the issues and providing the necessary solutions. We always announce our plans and whenever, there is a delay in implementation, we ensure that all our customers are duly informed as to the reasons behind the issue and work towards implementing the new plans at the earliest."

Talking about the operational results for the last two years, Hasan described the process since the inception of the ISP. "Within the first year of operations, we were able to build a base of 6,000 customers which increased to 13,000 in 1998 and 23,000 by the end of 1999. Not only that, but there was a phenomenal increase in the number of customers and in order to maintain our connectivity and service standards, we have increased the number of PTCL lines from 300 to 2,400. Enhanced bandwidth and reduction in service charges—courtesy PTCL—helped in reducing the tariff. "

Commenting on the current IT scenario in the country, Hasan feels that there is an urgent need to understand the IT potential and how it can propel our economy to a higher level. "Internet is the need of the hour and it is imperative that the Government understands and addresses this need. More and more businesses are establishing their websites and using them for promoting their business, making greater use of e-mail and visiting and downloading information from other sites for prudent decision making. Any attempt to discourage such activities will have an adverse impact on Pakistan's economy."

Commenting on the industry outlook, Hasan said, "As Business to Business (B to B) and Business to Customers (B to C) transactions increase, the country is moving towards e-commerce and catching up with rest of the world. To facilitate greater use of Information Technology and provide easier access to our services we are also increasing the number of our commercial centres. At present we have two centres in Karachi and we are actively working to expand the commercial network. Two more centres are expected to be operational shortly—one in Bahadurabad and the other in Nazimabad in Karachi."

In conclusion Hasan stated, "The GoP must comprehend the IT potential, open up the market and let the tide determine its own direction. As technology is moving at such a fast pace, it is difficult to forecast the future trend of Internet growth due to the current rapid and exponential technological advancements. We must encourage each stakeholder to open up their minds to IT and realize the cost-effective benefits that can be derived through the adoption of technology and allocate sufficient funds to expand their infrastructure in this direction."