TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Mar 03 - 09, 2008

Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access that is commonly known as WiMax is the state of the art technology making headway in the telecom sectors of Pakistan. According to an international research, by 2013 fifty percent of total global WiMax market share will be captured by regions such as Asia and Australia. Pakistan is also known one of the pioneer countries that rolled out operational long-distanced transmission of electronic data program. The telephony for all plan, chalked out by the government, envisaged rise in the ratio of telephones per hundred persons in near future. This ratio is still lowest as compared to standard set in world over. According to a rough estimate Pakistan has the teledensity of 6:100 in contrast to global average of 11:100. The WiMax is basically utilized to enhance the portability of data over a long distance. And, it seems that the new technology is disclosing its exponential growth in the country as two top-notch telecom service providers have already embarked on plans to launch WiMax network within different areas nationwide. Since, the technology provides an adequate alternative to fibre or copper broadband connectivity it suits topographical and geographical conditions of the nation. By and large, the plans are concurrently synchronized with the government's efforts to increase teledensity (number of telephone lines per 100 people) in far-flung areas of the country, that probably has not crossed over 30 percent. This is however fairly remarkable as compared to the situation few years ago, when the sector was not under special consideration of government. It is said that cellular and wireless local loop sectors presented emulating progress in past and showed torpedo growth rate. It is factually interesting to note that cellular users form about 85 percent of the gross telephone population of the country and rest is composed of those who subscribe to fixed line or wireless local loops offered mainly by ptcl, World Call, and Telecard. Aftermath of deregulation of telecom sector is basically attributed for considerable mass populace shifts while the situation is not this much amazing in India where only 65 percent of total subscribers were mobile phone users with teledensity of 13.5 percent as of 2006.

Pakistan has been favorite market in terms of WiMax deployment like other African regions because of holding promising lucrative returns on investment. Since many remote areas are to be tapped the growth prospect is attracting enormous foreign investment. The technology has capacity to provide broadband connectivity to geographical areas that have yet to take advantage of telecommunication services. Wireless local loop has come up as a new phenomenon in recent years and got popularity due to its portability and convenience, providing compatible substitute over traditional fixed line. In Pakistan, there are two major players of the sector, namely World Call and Telecard. On one hand, broad band coverage facilitates households with no landline coverage and it opens up employment opportunity for the unemployed. Easy accessibility and engrossed features of WLL put on new dimension in utilizing telecom services for earning money. Few telecom companies introduced WLL-supported public call booths that increased at substantial rate employability of many country fellows. Telecom analysts believe that the WLL sector will project tough competition for other telecomm sectors as well. According to PTA, the inclination of future inflow of investment will also be towards remote villages, destinations, and regions, estimated to grab billion of dollars investment particularly in long distanced, wireless local loops, and cellular markets.


At present six cellular service providers are operating in the nation, namely Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Warid, Instaphone, and nascent CM-Pak (major shareholder of Paktel, which was said to have 1.38 million customers) while Wateen and Motorola have come up with wide scale plans in relation to deployment of WiMax technology in the country. Motorola (known globally for innovation and leadership in wireless and broadband communications) recently went into agreement with orascom telecom company-Mobilink-to deploy WiMax access network for the operator in the country. The company would lay down support services to enable faster adoption of the inducted new technology. Covering major metropolitan areas such as Lahore and Islamabad, the technology would enable the operator to extend its current service offerings beyond cellular and data offerings to high speed broadband services for fixed line residential and business subscribers. This would be Motorola's second WiMAX in the country while this would be its fourth commercial WiMAX deployment after the Middle East and African regions. The benefits of the network include rapid broadband access in geographic areas where broadband coverage was not previously available. Basically, the technology offers convenient and affordable end user solutions with pre-paid billing. Similarly, Wateen launched its WiMax network initially for 22 cities across the country. According to few analysts, however, deployment of commercial WiMax network by Motorola was the largest ever network installed in Pakistan. The benefit of broad band connectivity would be extended to internet users as long-distanced transmission would carry forward heavy data with low risk of loss or disconnection.

Government of Pakistan has been emphasizing ways of boosting information technology and telecom sectors in order to shape the country in the hub producing international standardized engineering products. As said, Pakistan possesses compatible terrain for the deployment of WiMax access network; the progress in infrastructure development by telecom operators has disproportionably been unimpressive. Because of the unpredictable circumstances, investors are likely to put any major turnkey projects on back track. WiMax, that needs not only sophisticated infrastructure design but also requires persistent cash flow, is one of the crucial decisions for an investor. With no doubt, the technology can revolutionize the telecommunication sectors of the country.