PROSPECTS OF IT & TELECOM SECTOR GROWTH

By SADAF AURANGZAIB
May 29 - June 04, 2006

The information technology is now reaching its peak with the introduction of new modes of communication and its devices. The broadband facility is a core issue pertaining to the upcoming age of technologies. Recently Karachi people had a national conference IT and Telecom under the auspices of Internet Services Provider Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), Publicity Channel, Pakistan Software House Association (P@SHA) and supported by CyberNet and Pegasus Consultancy.

Various participants of the industry both from multinational and national segments were present. Sindh Secretary for Information Technology Yahya Waliullah was the chief guest who inaugurated the conference with his remarks that the federal government and its related departments on various occasions and forums, with its earnest efforts discussing the different issues pertaining to Information Technology, but they were not recognizable with actual core issues of IT, which leads the IT industry towards the development and prosperity of the nation i.e. the improvement of basic education infrastructure of our society from grass root level.

As information technology a global subject, Yahya Waliullah stressed the need for the focus on future strategy by formulating accurate guidelines with proper implementation, which would bring Pakistan's progress in competent and efficient manner.

President Internet Service Providers Association (ISPAK) and Chief Operating Officer Cyber Internet Services Syed Ansar-ul-Haq giving presentation on Bandwidth Penetration in Pakistan said that the broadband users consists of only 0.01% in Pakistan with 2.4 million internet consumer.

Let us first look into the definitions of broadband, bandwidth so that the later discussion would become easy to understand.

WHAT IS BROADBAND?

The term is today used to describe almost any always on, high speed connection to the internet.

WHAT IS BANDWIDTH?

The bandwidth of a connection is the width of it or the amount of data that can fit through it. To use an analogy, a ten lane road can fit more cars down it than a five lane road. We express the bandwidth in bits per second (bps). This indicates the number of bits of information that can fit down the line for a second. These days, bits per second doesn't cover many methods of connection so we use kilobits per second (kbps) and megabits per second (mbps) for thousands and millions of bits per second.

Hence broadband is a 'broad bandwidth' connection. It allows a large amount of data to travel through a medium at the same time. There are many opinions about what a large amount of data entails. It is all relative. When the internet was in its infancy, 2.4kbps was the fastest dialup speed available. Current 53kbps dialup speeds would seem to be broadband compared to back then.

The other consideration is that network traffic is bi-directional. In internet terms, there are download and upload paths for a connection. Many always on, high speed services have lower upload and higher download capacities. In network terms, these are called asymmetrical services. This complicates things somewhat when rating a service as both are significant.

NARROWBAND

Up to two channel ISDN at 128kbps (3BU) in both directions.

MIDBAND

Up to 512kbps (12BU) download and 256kbps (6BU) upload.

BROADBAND

Above 512kbps (12BU) upload and 256kbps (6BU) download.

Syed Ansar ul Haque presentation was about many things like the licenses given by the government to various modes:

1. Data Communication Network (DCNS)

23

2. Electronic Information Services (EIS)

127

3. E-Mail Services

11

4. Non Voice Communication Network Services (NVCNS)

31

5. Stored and forward Fax Services (S&FFS)

8

6. Video Conferencing Services (VCS)

1

7. Voice Mail Services (VMS)

2

He informed about the broadband benefits and said broadband access is widely recognized as a catalyst for the economic and social development of a country. The Broadband rollout has a more powerful impact than the spread of basic telephony.

He further added that in Pakistan, broadband prices are 1600 times higher than in Korea and the price is the major barrier to broadband growth in Pakistan:

About the broadband policy he reiterated:

BROADBAND POLICY 2004 (MOITT) STATES:

* BROADBAND BENEFITS

Broadband access is widely recognized as a catalyst for the economic and social development of a country. Broadband roll-out has a more powerful impact than the spread of basic telephony.

* 2,900 DSL Broadband users by June 2004
* In Pakistan, Broadband prices are 1600 times higher than in Korea
* Increase DSL user base to 100,000 by Dec. 2006
* Price is the major barrier to Broadband Growth in Pakistan:

Giving comparisons with different countries he showed the following slides that tells the real situation of Pakistan in keeping pace with the world

INDIA - BROADBAND (>256 KBPS) GROWTH:

 

Dec. 2004

Apr. 2006

Broadband Connections

49,000

1,415,000

Source: TRAI Press Release No. 13/ 2006 dated 08th February 2006

Broadband Connections activation per month:

Pakistan : < 1,000
Malaysia: ~ 33,000
India : > 80,000

The major hurdles preventing the growth of broadband were the prices for bandwidths are exorbitantly uncompetitive, access to the customers, costs of backhaul and fiscal policies, Syed Ahsan-ul-Haq pointed out.

On the pricing factor of broadband, Mr. Ansar gives his views

* Pakistan Broadband Policy announced in December 2004.

* Arbitrary Un-Announced Tariff Hike By connectivity in January 2005. PTCL by 700% for domestic

PTCL TARIFF

SR.

SPEED

OLD RATES
(US$ / MONTH)

NEW RATES
US$ / MONTH

RED. %

1

2 Mbps

3,950

2,000

49

2

8 Mbps

12,675

7,200

43

3

10 Mbps

15,795

8,000

49

4

12 Mbps

19,013

9,630

49

5

14 Mbps

22,165

11,230

49

6

16 Mbps

23,920

12,120

49

7

18 Mbps

26,845

13,600

49

8

20 Mbps

29,835

15,110

49

9

22 Mbps

32,825

16,620

49

10

24 Mbps

35,750

18,100

49

11

26 Mbps

36,140

18,300

49

12

28 Mbps

41,730

21,130

49

13

34 Mbps

46,800

24,000

49

14

45 Mbps

61,913

31,348

49

15

155 Mbps

123,826

76,000

39

About the hurdles preventing the broadband in Pakistan, he said

There are 10 main hurdles to growth that need to be addressed by regulatory changes

* Price
* Prices for bandwidths are exorbitantly uncompetitive
* Access to the customer
* Lack of access to the incumbent's copper for DSL
* Low quality of cable TV infrastructure and lack of organization
* High costs for DTH and VSAT
* Clearances for right of way
* Delayed Copper Activation / ONU / NTC
* Costs of backhaul
* Lack of effective competition in the domestic networks
* Ineffective implementation of National Internet Exchange
* Fiscal policies
* High taxes and duties, and lack of incentives for faster growth
* Content and applications
* Lack of locally relevant content and absence of "change agent" to drive growth

Speaking to audience on topic of Uncensorable Media-The Internet, Secretary ISPAK, Air Commodore (r) V.A. Abdi said about the various kinds of censorship by blocked URL's via DNS server, forced proxy server, transparent proxy, keyword filters, blocked ports, software on client, white listing and the IP blocking on the router.

Director Programs Catco International Inc, Zahara Khan; Deputy Director SZABIST, Azra Maqsood; CEO Telecard, Fazal Hussain and Naeem Qureshi CEO Publicity Channel and Rabia Gharib also spoke on different issues of IT and telecom sector on the occasion.

He said that the private sectors, NGO's and civil society members should play their role with government sector for improving the quality of basic education and IT development, because the youth of Pakistan have a great potential to serve a country.

"We must create a road map for development in IT and telecom sector unless we cannot move in isolation in global world", Secretary IT added.