KARACHI: Pakistan is expanding the scope of 3G/4G services to rural and semi-urban areas, as it bids to enhance broadband penetration and increase the size of the e-commerce market as well as include more people in mobile banking services.
The decision to include the smaller tehsils in Dadu, Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan districts was formally approved in the 59th meeting of the board of directors at the Universal Fund Company (USF Co). The meeting was chaired by Minister of State for IT and Telecom Anusha Rahman.
With an overwhelming majority of Pakistan’s population living in rural areas, the expansion in latest mobile broadband services will cover approximately 8 million, around 4% of the total population.
“There is demand for advanced mobile internet service from these areas,” Haris Mehmood, chief financial officer and secretary to the board at USF, told The Express Tribune.
In its meeting, the board approved the expansion under its New Generation Broadband Sustainable Development Program (NG-BSD).
“With proliferation of enabling apps and digital platforms, user behaviour has shifted from voice and data to being app-centric, which requires networks to deliver seamless coverage with optimum end to end performance,” Rahman was quoted as saying in the statement released on Wednesday.
Pakistan has been experiencing growth in broadband penetration since the spectrum auction was held in 2014. By February-end, mobile broadband users reached 51.2 million, bringing the total broadband base to 53.6 million, according to the latest data released by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
With phenomenal growth, experts believe the industry is facing saturation in urban areas, and needs to focus on Pakistan’s rural and semi-urban areas for continued growth. “Eight out of 10 internet users are online through smartphones and internet usage is increasing faster than ever before,” said Parvez Iftikhar, an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) expert.
“This expansion is good news as it helps achieve goals including financial and political inclusion.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2018.