With teledensity up to 63 per cent (over 100 million mobile users) in Pakistan, the telecom sector is already contributing three per cent to the GDP, and in 2009, PTA felt that Pakistan was ready for 3G technology.
Since then, we have had numerous seminars on the subject, organised by PTA, which were attended by representatives of all the major telecom companies, government officials and the successive ministers of IT and telecommunication. The most recent seminar wrapped up with the PTA chairman stating that, “By the end of the current quarter, they would be able to roll out plans for 3G services — once the policy is approved by the government.” I ask now, what is the delay?
For two years, the government has said that they are very serious about launching 3G in Pakistan, and yet the only thing we see coming out of such seminars, are more and more statements and false promises of a launch.
Mobile telecommunication has a large and significant impact upon economic growth, besides aiding social development. This impact may be twice as large for a developing country such as Pakistan, with mobile wireless technology, such as 3G, offering the means to enhance mobility and ease in our lives, through improved and sophisticated services. Such technology would allow rural businesses and consumers to be connected and be at par with global news, markets and standards.
3G opens the doors to opportunities such as expansion in commerce, betterment of workplace dynamics, greater citizen access to mobile enabled healthcare and education services and steering the country towards being a more information based society. So far, the telecom industry is the most attractive in terms of foreign direct investment, and reels in almost 30 per cent of it. With 3G services, new ancillary businesses, such as the mobile application development, would open up, where the focus would be on local applications for the general population. This has the potential of greatly escalating the quality and speed of carrying out everyday tasks and business related work.
A couple of years ago, Pakistan was a regional leader in the telecom market. Even after the economic downturn, an opportunity presented itself, where 3G technology could have been launched and the telecom sector could capture a new wave of users, along with being ahead in the global standing. Even after the economic downturn, an opportunity presented itself, where 3G technology could have been launched and the telecom sector could capture a new wave of users, along with being ahead in the global standing.
In 2008, India faced a great crisis with corruption poisoning their telecom sector and resulting in the 2G Spectrum scam that cost the Indian government INR 1,760 billion ($38.9 billion) in damages. The Pakistan economy could never withstand such a tremendous setback, and therefore, the Pakistan government should put serious effort into granting these 3G licenses based on the merit of the company and stick to the proper rules and procedures.
India finally launched 3G in 2010, along with China. Today, even Nigeria and other parts of Africa have launched 3G, and the Middle East has taken a step further to 4G services. We must not waste time, and I urge the government to work with the telecom sector in launching the services. They must figure out a way to support the IT and telecom sectors, allowing them to achieve their true potential and sustain both the economic and social growth of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2011.