TELECOM SECTOR MAKING PROGRESS, BRINGING MORE AND MORE NEW PRODUCTS

KANWAL SALEEM
Dec 08 - 21, 2008

Telecom sector has now become one of the prime sectors which an economy needs for rapid growth, development and modernization of its various sectors. Government of Pakistan awarded status of industry to telecom sector in year 2003-04. Benefits that accrue to a declared industry are now available to telecom sector. Over the past two decades, the institutional and regulatory framework of the telecommunications industry has changed radically.

Despite difficult economic situation prevailing in the country due to host of issues, the country's telecom sector is making progress and bringing more and more products for the ultimate benefit of the end users.

TELEDENSITY LIKELY TO GROW

The foundation of the country's telecom sector is based on strong footings and the teledensity in the country is likely to grow unabated due to the demographics. The country has a large percentage of under-25 population that desires newer handsets and value-added services.

The software and hardware companies need to invest in Pakistan because they can diversify and utilize the services of highly educated and skilled manpower and the large base of telecom engineers. These companies can also collaborate with Pakistani companies.

HUGE POTENTIAL IN PAKISTANI TELECOM MARKET

There is huge potential in Pakistani telecom market, as there is low cost of production. In most of the countries, public telecommunication operators (PTOs) have been fully or partially privatized and regulations concerning access to telecommunication markets, provision of services to users and pricing mechanisms have been overhauled.

Pakistan telecommunication market for the fixed-line services was dominated by Pakistan Telecommunication Limited (PTCL). But now Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has been given the role of a regulatory body and is responsible for implementing the telecom deregulation policy.

MOBILINK MOBILE MONEY ORDER SERVICE

In another initiative, Mobilink has signed an agreement with Pakistan Post Office (PPO) to introduce Mobile Money Order Service in Pakistan for Mobilink Mobile Money Order Service.

The agreement was signed by Ahsan Basir Sheikh, Additional Director General, (Financial Services), from Pakistan Post and Bilal Munir Sheikh, VP Marketing from Mobilink, which has a growing base of over 30 million customers and a subsidiary of Orascom Telecom. Mobilink, which as a company is on the forefront of technological innovation, has pioneered mobile commerce in the country.

The Mobilink Mobile Money Order Service is a unique offering that completely revolutionizes the process of sending and receiving money orders. The first and only service of its kind in Pakistan, Mobilink Mobile Money Order Service enables company's customer to send and receive money orders to any Mobilink customer across the country anytime, anywhere, via SMS.

Mobile Money Order Service offers provide far greater speed and efficiency as compared to a cash-based system by combining the reliability and speed of Mobilink's network, the largest in the country, with Pakistan Post which also has an extremely strong presence nationwide and unparalleled experience in serving the rural areas. The customers can not only remit money to their relatives and friends through mobile SMS but also can withdraw or deposit up to Rs 10,000. This can be done by simply filling out a form that will be available at authorized PPO branches across the country upon launch. Once they are submitted, within 24 hours customers will be able to send and receive money orders at their convenience to Mobilink users via SMS anywhere in Pakistan. The Mobile Money Order Service is in line with Mobilink's principal aim of connecting the unconnected and providing unique products and services to the consumers, especially the undeserved sections of society.

In the past, Mobilink also introduced various socially inclusive products such as Mobilink PCO, a self-employment solution enabling people from all walks of life to earn a secured livelihood, and Mobilink Kisan Service, an IVR based service providing farmers access to price and weather information along with valuable advice on harvesting matters.

WIMAX NETWORK DEPLOYMENT

Motorola and Mada had also announced starting of the roll out of an end to end 802.16 e-based WiMAX Network Deployment which began in September.

MADA Communications (Formerly Arabtel), a Kuwaiti company established in 1982, is a leading International carrier and broadband wireless provider. It is expected to launch WiMAX services before the end of 2008. Mada will use the end-to-end Motorola WiMAX solution to deliver fixed and nomadic voice and data services to residential and enterprise customers.

In addition, Motorola has designed a wholesale model, enabling Mada to offer WiMAX services to other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Jordan, expanding the potential of the WiMAX network and increasing revenues for Mada.

ZONG EXPANDS ITS NETWORK COVERAGE ALONGSIDE KKH

Chinese Cellular Company-ZONG has launched the provision of its network coverage alongside Karakoram Highway (KKH) and in leading cities of Northern Areas situated alongside KKH.

In February this year, ZONG, the first international venture of China Mobile, had welcomed the expansion and widening project of KKH by announcing that its service will soon be available all along the highway. The latest expansion includes launching of services in Daggar (Bunair District), Chilas, Dassu, Bunji, Sikandrabad on KKH and Astore on the tertiary route within Northern Areas.

According to Mr. Zafar Usmani, Chief Operating Officer ZONG, this launch was another promise fulfilled by ZONG for its customers in Pakistan. "We will be covering areas in the northern belt and in AJK and we are fulfilling every commitment that we have made. The company has been focusing aggressively on expanding its network coverage amid growing demand from people living across the vast and diverse geography of Pakistan", he said.

ZONG by now has several major cities of the Northern Areas in its network including Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu, Besham and Sust and now it will have more adjacent surrounding areas too. ZONG received its license from the PTA to provide cellular services in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Areas (AJK & NA) in August 2007.

According to him, Zong believes in providing quality services to all our family members and would like them to enjoy innovative value added services where ever they are. ZONG is part of China Mobile which is the world's largest cellular company having 370 million customers, managing more than 200,000 cell sites and handling over 6 billion calls every day.

ETISALAT PLANS MORE INVESTMENT IN PAKISTAN

Etisalat, a UAE firm, which already made huge investment in telecom sector including a 26 percent stake in PTCL, has planned to invest more in different fields of Pakistan's economy.

Etisalat Head Mohammad Hassan Omran met President Asif Ali Zardari during his recent official visit to UAE. He termed his meeting with President Zardari as very productive and fruitful and said the President was appreciative of the company's strong presence in Pakistan and assured full cooperation of the government to Etisalat in its plans to expand their business in the country.

PTCL INTRODUCES VFONE UNLIMITED PACKAGE

PTCL has introduced Vfone Unlimited package all over Pakistan, which offers 24 hours and seven days a week free unlimited calls anywhere and anytime. Vfone Unlimited, according to PTCL spokesman, is an exciting new package from PTCL Vfone that offers Unlimited Free Calls to all Vfone and PTCL landlines, be it local or nationwide all day long. The customers can also enjoy free SMS within the country. All this is against a daily line rent of just Rs. 20 including all taxes.

This package is also unique because it breaks the current trend of hidden charges and taxes prevalent in the telecom industry, the spokesman said. PTCL Vfone is Pakistan's largest WLL CDMA network deploying the best CDMA2 000 1X technology and covering over 10,000 urban, suburban as well as rural areas with a customer base of nearly 1.2 million subscribers, he said. Vfone also offers an exciting variety of services ranging from voice to high speed dialup internet access for a minimal cost of Rs.1 /10 minutes including all taxes, he added.

PTCL BROADBAND SERVICE

PTCL aspires to provide broadband access to all internet users in Pakistan. "Being the largest IP service provider, we have a vision to provide broadband access in all cities throughout the country," a spokesman of PTCL said.

The PTCL Broadband service, he disclosed, is now available in 103 cities across Pakistan and it would be made available in more cities in the future. Nevertheless, PTCL has become the first company in Pakistan to provide Broadband services in over 100 cities across the country, whereas before PTCL's entry into the Broadband market in 2007, Broadband was primarily only available in the 3 major cities of the country.

PTCL is spearheading the broadband culture in Pakistan, where till a couple of years back there was little awareness in the market about the broadband and multimedia technologies, nor were there any significant players entering the field to cater to mass market with high speed internet access.

PTCL has successfully provisioned broadband services in 103 major cities and towns i.e. Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Hala, Sukkur, Jacobabad, Khairpur, Larkana, Multan, Okara, Pakpattan, Sahiwal, Faisalabad, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Abbottabad, Attock, Gujjar Khan, Jehlum, Peshawar, Quetta alongside other small towns and cities across Pakistan.

The expansion of PTCL broadband network will continue providing landline subscribers opportunity to experience the latest in broadband and related technologies.