The dilapidated network causing miseries to subscribers

June 21 - 27, 2004

No corrective steps whatsoever they might be can produce results, even the world class marketing policy can not bring Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) at par with the other phone companies until and unless the ground and underground network was improved and upgraded.

The dilapidated network of the PTCL not only draining out the hard earned huge revenue of one of the most important government run institutions but also causing miseries to subscribers.

Other phone companies operating in the country are generally accused of giving connections in excess and some of them have penalized also but PTCL is not extending its available telephone facilities in the many parts of the country. Although PTCL's facts and figures are doubtful but the annual report indicates about the number of pending demand for new connections which are estimated over 400,000 in April this year. The increasing demand could be assessed from the estimated figures i.e. 304,395 up to March 2004. However the actual situation was far from what it has been mentioned in the PTCL's report. Details of installed capacity and operative connections are another example of its inefficiency; fixed lines capacity was 4.94 million while number of subscribers were 3.98 million as per annual report. Senior officials are master in giving justifications of PTCL's poor services and hiding facts and figures. Apart from PTCL's subscribers miseries, the companies own facts and figures are enough of its poor performance. PTCL's telephone density per 100 population was 2.9 till the month of April 2004.

PTCL's New Prepaid Phone Service "Aasan (easy) prepaid Phone Service" launched early this month got poor response just because of its poor and dilapidated network and miserable services. Although new service provides many attractive features to subscribers. Only an application form with the photocopy of computerized National Identity Card is required to have an immediate phone at the required premises. In the first phase 300,00 connections in 10 cities have been offered. The cities include; Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Multan and Sialkot. The new scheme gives a facility to its subscriber to load a prepayment telephone card against their telephone number thereby generating an account in platform and any call made from that telephone number will be charged to this account. The subscribers are also offered PTCL's same features and normal PTCL call tall tariff.

PTCL's Fault Management System always remained highly objectionable and mysterious that is managed on the basis of 45 years old. More than a dozen very good proposals have been scrapped mysteriously. The gravity of the situation can be imagined that a lineman who leaves the phone exchange with detail of job that he has to do is out of touch with the PTCL, as he has not been given any tool of immediate connection. More than 2,000 linemen are working with PTCL with their own cellular phones. The complainant never has any valid proof that he had lodged complaint with PTCL. Even large number of complaints registered with so-called computerized fault record system are cleared from the computers without rectification. Corruption at lower and middle level is bringing miseries to the subscribers in the thickly populated parts of the country like Karachi. In many areas subscribers have to go to visit Telephone Exchange for misuse.

The PTCL network offers open chances for misuse of the facility especially in the urban centers of the country including Karachi. High-rise buildings and apartments, and commercial complexes stand on top where open wires are misused through Kunda system. The genuine subscribers have to go through long process to prove that their phone line had been misused. Besides the abuse of the open lines, they are susceptible to develop faults.

Apart from misuse, the PTCL's network is venerable to any saboteur act. It may be recalled that during the days when Karachi experienced the worst kind of law and order situation in the past, a large number of main cables were cut and phone cabinets were burnt by miscreants. Though the PTCL authorities persistently raised hue and cry against the police and held the law enforcing agencies responsible for the protection of its network, yet it did not bother to upgrade the system to combat the challenges of the situation. Even today, the PTCL network facing threats from many pressure groups who damage the cables in suburban areas to blackmail the authorities.

Issuance of conditional demand notes is another chapter, PTCL has collected huge amount from thousands of applicants through conditional demand notes where PTCL did not extend its network.

The applicants have not been given any timeframe for the new connections. A senior PTCL officer said that root cause of all these problems originates from its headquarters in Islamabad which seems to have focused its attention on privatization plan of the corporation while all other issues seems to have been shelved for the time being.