3G/4G: THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS NEW TECHNOLOGY AGE

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

May 21 - 27, 20
12

The auction of third generation (3G) licences to the telecommunication companies to enable them to provide modern information and communication technologies to Pakistani subscribers who remain normally on the periphery of life-changing technological developments emerging very fast worldwide has been shelved once again.

While March-end was scheduled as the time when reportedly three licences were to be issued to the potential mobile service operators, it was said the Pakistan telecommunication authority (PTA) had not called the expressions of interest from the bidders.

"Potential bidders were due to submit expressions of interest from January 21, but they have yet not been invited to do so. No official notification has been received by us or any other operator," Walid Irshaid, chief executive of Pakistan Telecommunication Co. (PTCL), told Reuters.

While the delay is keeping the economic implications of the revolutionary technologies at a distance, it has also deprived Pakistan of $630 million precious foreign currency that was to be generated through the sale of three licences, each tagged $210 million and having validity of 15 years.

In the wake of drawdown of foreign reserve at present or later on account of external debt payments, widening trade deficit, slowdown of foreign investments, etc., the significance of this effortless money can well be understood.

Importantly, the licensing will also entail that 3G operators will help setting up of handsets and accessories manufacturing plants in Pakistan, according to a government's document. For a country that spends millions of dollars annually on import of cellular phones and telecom accessories, local production will imply much-needed relief to its foreign reserve in addition to development of engineering industry, knowledge transfer, employment creation and so forth.

3G

Third generation services facilitate modern communication through transmission of high speed data, which signifies video calls, downloading and net surfing at fast speed, and conflict-free operation of heavy applications on mobile phones. Such services are commonplace in many countries around the world.

3G will provide a gateway to the economic breakthroughs and lead to unprecedented monetary benefits to the masses using mobile services as mere the agents of consumer economy instead of monetizing it.

Apart from their contribution towards the society building or social networking, new mobile technologies can and are bringing in innovative ways of economic growth beneficial to all the sectors.

Speaking at a 'Investors Conference for Auction of Mobile Cellular License and Spectrum', federal minster for finance, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, who is also the chairman of auction supervisory committee, said 3G/4G would "increase opportunities in education, health, agriculture and banking sectors of the country".

Ecommerce is gaining popularity around the world. Especially, business to consumer ecommerce model has proved itself very helpful for businesses in improving return on investments and increasing customer traffics during lean period as well as for consumers in grabbing bargains (special prices).

Although, Pakistan's telecom landscape is brightening with each passing day, there are technical barriers in the way of optimal growth par excellence, for instance, in the profitable and consumer-oriented ecommerce field. Poor payment gateways disable purchasing to be made from Pakistan while local businesses are yet to tap into the power of web to generate leads and put up local products for sale in the international market.

There are five mobile operators in the country including Pakistan telecommunication company (ptcl), a subsidiary of UAE-based Etisalat, Norwegian Telenor, Egyptian Orascom Telecom (Mobilink), Warid Telecom, and China Mobile Communication Corporation (Zong). All plus reportedly other new entrants are in the race of acquiring licenses to launch 3G services in Pakistan.

GLOBAL SCENARIO

Telecom operators in the developed countries have gone one-step ahead since they are also delivering 4G in mobile environment. Almost all smart phones and tablets are compatible with new technologies.

What was the one thing that enabled Amazon's Kindle Fire stack up against iPad the great? It was of course the price factor. Minus it and analysts thought Fire, powered by Google Inc.'s Android, would stand nowhere.

At present, Samsung Electronics plays second fiddle to Apple in the tablet market. In early months of its launch, Kindle Fire clinched the second position with specs much like new iPad (16 GB Wi-Fi) and price considerably less than it. Kindle's price is $199 as against $499 of iPad.

During the first three months of this calendar year, market share of Apple's tablets jumped at 68 per cent from 55 per cent in December despite the fact that overall global tablet shipments decreased sharply to 17.4 million from 28.2 million units. Total 7.9 million tablets were shipped in the quarter a year ago, according to International Data Corp. (IDC).

Still, Kindle is the biggest accommodator of Android with 54.4 per cent share in the Android tablet market, said Framingham, Massachusetts-based research firm.

Apple continues to enjoy a domineering position in the tablet market. But, Nokia's experience is indicative of uncertainty that is imbedded in the consumer electronics market and fast changing moods of technology fashionistas determining the life cycle of devices.

The Finnish phone marker endured a disappointing slide in its share in smartphone market to 8.2 per cent in March quarter from 23.8 per cent in December and too lost its crown to Samsung in mobile phone market, according to IHS iSuppli.

The erstwhile incontestable leader in feature mobile phones, Nokia faced $1.76 billion operating loss in Jan-Mar. Perhaps, therefore it is waiting in the wings to throw a score of tablets in the market in near future.

Samsung shipped 32 million smartphones to end users in March quarter, according to iSuppli. Apple recorded 35 million iPhones shipped to end users worldwide during three months.

During the three months, Nokia sold 12 million smartphones followed by Research in Motion (RIM) 11 million and LG four million.

No doubt, Samsung is the market leader in overall cell phone market and in Jan-Mar, it outpaced Nokia by shipping 83.4 million cell phones, more than Nokia's 82.7 million.

Pakistan has to catch speed in its journey to the new technology age. First of all, the government of Pakistan should issue 3G/4G licences as soon as possible to make sense of heavy money it has spent thus far on the investment conferences in Karachi, Islamabad, and Geneva to attract bidders to the auction.