MOBILINK: TELECOM SECTOR'S SUCCESS STORY

The company recently rolled out the world's most powerful mobile communications tool - BlackBerry

SADAF AURANGZAIB, Senior Correspondent
Feb 12 - 18, 2007

Telecommunication plays a highly significant role in our daily lives. The countries that have reliable telecom services not only draw profitable businesses but they have also modernized their social sector for the overall development of society. Since 1990, the cellular industry in Pakistan has gone through many ups and downs. Until 1997, its growth was slow due to non-conducive regulatory policies, lack of local expertise, little or no effort to reach masses, reluctance of major investors, unstable political conditions and security situation.

Deregulation of telecom sector is being seen as the beginning of revolutionizing telecom industry in Pakistan. The architects of this concept consider this step as a bold & fruit bearing. They perceived the happening of miracles at the end of the day. In line with the international concepts and emerging trends, Pakistan opted for opening up its economy for the international investors. Pakistan committed to the WTO forum in 1997 to open up its basic telecom services to private sector in 2002. In pursuance of this strategy, deregulation process of telecom sector was started in early 2003, and its first phase stands successfully completed, with all telecom services liberalized and entry barriers & restrictions abolished.

The industry gained momentum after the introduction of prepaid regime in 1997. Gradually, the service providers have enhanced their capacity both in area coverage and quality. Major reasons for this rapid growth have been network expansion, reduction in entry costs, aggressive marketing and, most importantly, the implementation of the calling party pays (CPP) regime.

According to Pyramid Research Asia-Pacific, the current trend is the convergence of fixed line, mobile technology, universal mobile telecom system (UMTS), data information and entertainment media. By 2010, the worldwide mobile market is expected to reach US $ 1 trillion mark.

If we look into the history of the cellular services of Pakistan we can see the standing of Mobilink as one of the major players in this sector. Mobilink is an Orascom Telecom Group company and is Pakistan's leading cellular service provider with a subscriber growth of 104% in 2006. The company has achieved the customer base of 22.5 million customers as of December 31, 2006.

In Pakistan, cellular companies have mostly been focusing on major cities, with a minor effort to offer coverage in rural and less privileged areas. Seventy percent of the business comes from the four major cities i.e. Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Faisalabad. Mobilink provides the most extensive network coverage footprint across Pakistan through an integrated technology infrastructure in more than 3,500 cities, towns, villages, and countless remote destinations, including International Roaming in 110 countries through 300 partner operators.

The company directly employs over 4,000 people and has the largest distribution network with 200,000 outlets across Pakistan. Mobilink's corporate social responsibility program contributes significantly in key areas of health, education, social uplift and cultural development causes in Pakistan and the company is the official cellular service of the Pakistan Cricket Board. Mobilink is the only corporate in Pakistan to issue a 'high-yield' bond worth US$ 250 million in the international market and has portrayed a positive image of the country as a secure destination for doing business.

CELLULAR MOBILE DENSITY

YEAR

MOBILE DENSITY

2000

0.22

2001

0.52

2002

1.16

2003

1.61

2004

3.29

2005

8.30

2006

22.21

July-2006

23.67

Aug-2006

25.22

Sep-2006

26.71

Oct-2006

28.54

Nov-2006

29.87

Dec-2006

31.07*
*Revised

Source: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority

The phenomenal growth pattern of the company has been such that today, on a daily basis, no less than 45,000 people from across of the country select Mobilink as their first-choice cellular service provider. The company has invested millions of dollars to install state-of-the-art equipment and technologies to bring global telecommunication excellence in Pakistan.

The company stands out prominently in the local market as one of the most successful entities in business today, both from investment and revenue points of view, in a very short span of time. Its success defines the success of the telecom industry in Pakistan; and the success of the telecom industry in Pakistan is being recognized on the international front. With a commanding 55% market share in the country, the company's power-packed initiatives are a challenging benchmark in the industry.

"The continuous investment of Orascom reflects the desire of our shareholders to remain a long-term player in the market. The billion and a half dollar investment is also reflective of Pakistan's stature as a growing, stable and lucrative market for foreign investment, fueled by stable and steady macro economic indicators," said Zouhair Khaliq, President and CEO Mobilink.

With a total investment to-date of over US$1.5 billion, the company continues to consolidate its position as the clear market leader in the mobile sector in Pakistan. In addition Orascom Telecom is investing heavily in establishing an optic fiber backbone, and an undersea cable project in the country, as well as in other sectors of industry such as real estate and construction.

A recently published independent report by Senior Analyst of Pyramid Research, states: "Despite the sudden increase in competition, the country's largest operator continues to add subscribers at breakneck speeds and defy analyst expectations."

On the technology side, Mobilink is determined to remain ahead of competition by adding on relevant technology innovations and conveniences. Through its 'Mobilink World' it has once again proved to have the best and most advanced cellular service in the country by launching its GPRS powered services with a WAP portal.

Bilal Munir Sheikh, Director Marketing said: "Since the launch of GPRS powered services, 'Mobilink World' has introduced for the first time in Pakistan, a WAP portal from which you can get updated news from Reuters, BBC and The Nation. Customers can get information on travel, weather and business updates, download music, polyphonic ring tones, animated greeting cards, games, and much more to keep one engrossed for hours". Interestingly, there is a Media section with reviews on the latest movies and the trailer for an upcoming movie; and if one is a sports fan, one can view all the latest sports news and reviews just by visiting the WAP portal.

"The Mobilink World, powered by GPRS, is our platform for new and innovative services which changes the way customers experience their mobile connection. It provides them access to more services from their mobile phone and reduces the time they spend on searching the web."

Furthermore, being the industry's technology leader, the company recently rolled out the world's most powerful mobile communications tool - BlackBerry - it is a global most-favored wireless application, offered by over 100 networks across the globe. Mobilink subscribers are now able to stay connected with secure wireless access to corporate email and enterprise data, anytime.

With the phenomenal growth of the telecom sector in the region, its contribution to the GDP in Pakistan's economy, intense competition amongst the six leading cellular operators and consumer demand for technically-advanced communication tools and the launch of the Mobilink-BlackBerry partnership happen to be an industry first and an exclusive privilege for the company's customers.

Explaining the salient features of the Mobilink and BlackBerry partnership, Bilal Munir Sheikh, Director Marketing Mobilink, informed: "Blackberry offers Indigo's target audience - comprising savvy entrepreneurs, businessmen and high profile corporate individuals - a full scope of productivity and enhanced applications like Push-based Email, Phone & Text Messaging, Connected Organizer, the Internet and Corporate Data Access".

Mobilink has remained the successful story of the telecom sector, its network and access is growing with the every passing day and we hope that it will remain like this to give a prosperous hallmark to Pakistan.

HISTORY OF CELLULAR PHONES

CELLULAR phones emerged in 1947, when researchers examined the very basic car phones and discovered that by using small cells (range of service area) with frequency reuse they could increase the traffic capacity of mobile phones substantially. However at that time, the technology to do so was non-existent.

A cell phone is a type of two-way radio. In 1947, AT&T proposed that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) allocate a large number of radio-spectrum frequencies so that widespread mobile telephone service would become feasible and AT&T would have an incentive to research the new technology. We can partially blame the FCC for the gap between the initial concept of cellular service and its availability to the public. The FCC decided to limit the amount of frequencies available in 1947, the limits made only 23 phone conversations possible simultaneously in the same service area - not a market incentive for research.

The FCC reconsidered its position in 1968, stating: "If the technology to build a better mobile service works, we will increase the frequencies allocation, freeing the airwaves for more mobile phones." AT&T and Bell Labs proposed a cellular system to the FCC of many small, low-powered, broadcast towers, each covering a "cell" a few miles in radius and collectively covering a larger area. Each tower would use only a few of the total frequencies allocated to the system. As the phones travel across the area, calls would be passed from tower to tower.

INVENTORS AND PATENTS

Dr Martin Cooper, a former general manager for the systems division at Motorola, is considered the inventor of the first modern portable handset. Cooper made the first call on a portable cellphone in April 1973. He made the call to his rival, Joel Engel, Bell Labs' head of research. Bell Laboratories introduced the idea of cellular communications in 1947 with the police car technology. However, Motorola was the first to incorporate the technology into portable device that was designed for outside of automobile use.

By 1977, AT&T and Bell Labs had constructed a prototype cellular system. A year later, public trials of the new system were started in Chicago with over 2,000 trial customers. In 1979, in a separate venture, the first commercial cellular telephone system began operation in Tokyo. In 1981, Motorola and American Radio Telephone started a second US cellular radio-telephone system test in the Washington/Baltimore area. By 1982, the slow-moving FCC finally authorized commercial cellular service for USA. A year later, the first American commercial analogue cellular service or AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone Service) was made available in Chicago by Ameritech.

Despite the incredible demand, it took cellular phone service 37 years to become commercially available in the United States. Consumer demand quickly outstripped the 1982 system standards. By 1987, cellular telephone subscribers exceeded one million and the airways were crowded.

Three ways of improving services existed:

- Increasing frequencies allocation
- Splitting existing cells
- Improving the technology.

The FCC did not want to handout any more bandwidth, and building/splitting cells would have been expensive and would have added bulk to the network. To stimulate the growth of new technology, the FCC declared in 1987 that cellular licensees could employ alternative cellular technologies in the 800MHz band. The cellular industry began to research new transmission technology as an alternative.

African American inventor Henry Sampson did not invent the cellphone. Sampson is a brilliant and accomplished inventor who invented a Gamma-Electrical Cell and not a phone cell.

Sci-tech World.

SUBSCRIBERS

 

MOBILINK

UFONE

PAKTEL

INSTSPHONE

TELENOR

WARID

TOTAL

GROWTH RATE

2000

114,272

 

80,221

112,000

 

 

306,493

15.39

2001

309,272

116,711

96,623

220,000

 

 

742,606

142.29

2002

800,000

350,000

218,536

330,000

 

 

1,698,536

128.73

2003

1,115,000

550,000

319,400

420,000

 

 

2,404,400

41.56

2004

3,215,989

801,160

470,021

535,738

 

 

5,022,908

108.90

2005

7,469,085

2,579,103

924,486

454,147

835,727

508,655

12,771,203

154.26

2006

17,205,555

7,487,005

1,040,503

336,696

3,573,660

4,863,138

34,506,557

170.2

July-2006

18,321,599

7,884,703

1,121,821

316,000

3,887,774

5,246,565

36,778,462

-

Aug-2006

19,181,846

8,356,668

1,458,008

302,000

4,262,599

5,632,685

39,193,806

 

Sep-2006

20,315,739

8,860,406

1,507,446

285,000

4,597,008

5,936,603

41,502,202

 

Oct-2006

21,273,333

9,032,745

1,557,418

262,000

5,172,966

7,054,115

44,352,577

 

Nov-2006

22,034,166

9,646,958

1,384,534

250,000

5,833,071

7,276,533

46,425,262

 

Dec-2006

22,375,404

10,016,897

1,327,580

329,581*

6,624,896

7,614,778

48,289,136*

 

Source: PAKISTAN TELECOMMUNICATION AUTHORITY