CHINA MOBILE PLANS TO INVEST ANOTHER US $500M IN PAKISTAN

KANWAL SALEEM, Lahore
July 16 - 22, 2007

World's biggest telecom operator China mobile having 320 million subscribers in China plans to invest another $ 500 million next year (2008). Sources in Ministry of Information Technology told PAGE that a sum of $ 1.2 billion has already been invested in Pakistan by China mobile. China mobile plans to cover every corner of the country within the next two years. The focus of China mobile would be rural and far-flung areas of Pakistan as the unserved areas have immense potential, the sources said.

Telecom sector in Pakistan has already attracted a combined investment of around Rs 77 billion during last year. The matching investment is expected during the coming years to ensure services for still unserved areas, the sources pointed out.

Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front (PIAF) Chairman Mian Abuzar Shad said that joint ventures with China to manufacture mobile phone sets locally be encouraged in order to save precious foreign exchange being spent on import of these sets. It would also create job opportunities and curtailing trade deficit, he added.

The IT and telecom industry played a leading role in driving Pakistan's economy to a great level. Many heads of International organizations appreciated the investor friendly policies and highly suitable business environment of the country. Pakistan is on the 'take off' position in terms of economic growth and excellence in the field of IT and telecommunications. One can expect further Development and Growth in this sector and great Economic activities in the future, he said.

According to analysts, the monopoly in Pakistan's telecom industry ended in the year 2002 and the economic indicators showed positive signs within five years. Analysts believe that future of Pakistan's telecom sector seems very exciting but the good old past should also be kept in mind for learning and formulating fruitful future strategies. The country is moving with a very high pace towards a tele-dense country. Internet usage is also being promoted widely in the country and more real world services are now shifting to Internet day by day.

According to official sources, the government has established hundreds of IT centers for awareness in villages. Pakistan is heading towards automation as government departments and ministries have started adopting computerized systems for processing of different everyday jobs. An E-government department with the name of 'Electronic Government Directorate (EGD)' is also there to facilitate automation.

The telecom sector playing a key role in the country's economic growth. From Europe to Middle East, investment inflow is coming up while the days pass by. This is not just because of the telecom operators that came to Pakistan but also because of vendors which provide the basic infrastructure, technical support and equipment etc. for telecom companies. We can see this sector is acting as a catalyst for future economic development as the share of telecom industry in provision of employment and development in rural sector is on the rise, they said. According to these sources, the country, which had only 1500 Internet subscribers in 1995 now, has the figure in millions. Currently, over 1900 cities and towns have Internet access in Pakistan while the tele-density is increasing rapidly.

In today's world, literally all the functionality within the hardware that is used in switching equipment and other telecom related devices is embedded into the software that comes bundled with the devices. "It is but natural that the dramatic growth in the telecom sector has some synergies with the software industry in the country," the sources said.

"Companies that do not utilize IT based solutions to lower costs, reduce inventory and improve customer care will not be able to compete in this era of fierce competition," analysts opined. Pakistan has become "a hub of activity for international and domestic telecom companies and unprecedented amount of FDI has flowed into the sector, due to well thought-out telecom policy, which was launched after intensive discussions and debates involving all stakeholders." The telecom is one of the fastest growing businesses.