Pakistan's 3G/4G users doubled to 29.53 million in FY16

Overall broadband subscribers amounted to 32.41m

Salman Siddiqui August 05, 2016
Overall broadband subscribers amounted to 32.41m. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: The number of users on mobile-phone internet networks - 3G/4G - has doubled to 29.53 million in the fiscal year ended June 30 as the country moves ahead on adopting broadband technology after the spectrum auction.

The Pakistan Telecommuni­cation Authority (PTA) reported Friday that the number of 3G/4G subscribers has reached 29.53 million in June 2016, up from 14.6 million in July 2015.

3G/4G users up 3.74%, but growth slowing

“The availability of low-cost smartphones and aggressive roll-out of apps has made this possible,” said Parvez Iftikhar, an expert on information and communication technology.

The availability of social networking apps like Whatsapp and Facebook has played a significant role in attracting huge traffic on mobile internet.

Iftikhar added that introduction of 3G/4G internet services in Pakistan in 2014 has apparently helped boost the economy at length. “But to measure the real impact of 3G/4G on the economy, we need to conduct independent studies,” he said.

He said that the establishment of a number of technology incubators in the country was one example of boost to the economy through such cellular networks. Incubators have produced a number of startups, while many of them kept growing their businesses to larger scale.

Beware Pakistani mobile internet users

According to Iftikhar, the launch of online shopping portals, internet banking and roll-out of mobile money transfer by almost all cellular companies have also helped attract higher traffic on 3G/4G networks.

Besides, federal and provincial governments were also utilising mobile broadband for uplift of health, education and agriculture sectors.

PTA said that total broadband subscribers grew 92% to 32.41 million in fiscal year 2016 from 16.88 million in the previous fiscal year 2015.

The authority added that total teledensity recovered to 70.94% in FY16 from 62.9% in FY15. It peaked at 78.89% in FY14. The suspension of millions of mobile phone SIMs in the aftermath of biometric verification had reversed the growth in FY15.

Teledensity alone for cellular mobile regained to 69.12% in FY16 from 60.7% in FY15, PTA added.

The number of total mobile phone users, including non 3G/4G users, grew by 16% to 133.24 million in FY16 from 114.65 million in FY15, it added.

Sagheer Wattoo, a spokesperson at the federal ministry of information technology, credited the rapid growth in 3G/4G subscribers to the introduction of Telecommunications Policy 2015 last year.

High-speed internet: Broadband subscriptions near 30 million mark

“The policy note has made possible the sharing {cross use of} infrastructure and spectrum by telcos,” he said, adding this has resulted into attracting more subscribers.

“The growth in 3G/4G subscriber base was less than 3% before the current government in the centre came in power in 2013. This rate has accelerated to over 19% now,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2016.

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