Owing to the menace of illegal mobile phone signal boosters, cellular and broadband users in Pakistan are experiencing a drop in their networks. Although stakeholders from cellular network companies and the Pakistan T e l e c o m m u n i c a t i o n Authority (PTA) are working to address this issue, it seems that both sides are unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
However, the two groups claim to be on the same page to curb one of the biggest issues faced by mobile companies; increasing use of illegal mobile signal boosters. These boosters are becoming a norm for many households as they are easily available wholesale, retail and online marketplaces of Pakistan. These boosters enhance the networks of their users while deteriorating the signal quality of other mobile phone customers in the vicinity. In such cases, telecom companies are blamed for their poor services by their customers.
Currently, this issue is hindering the performance of all cellular companies in Pakistan. “This is an ideal time for PTA and the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) to float frequency spectrums for auction,” said an independent information and communications technology (ICT) analyst. “Due to Covid-19, the broadband penetration in Pakistan has increased manifold but still companies are adjusting new connections at old frequencies.”
People use boosters to strengthen the signal strength and this issue will be resolved to a great extent when new spectrum becomes available, he said. At present, all companies need to update their spectrums which will improve their business besides fetching $800 million in additional revenue for PTA, he stressed. According to data from PTA, Pakistan’s cellular subscribers currently stand at 183 million. The total number of 3G/4G subscribers has reached 98 million with broadband subscription hitting 101 million. With such strong numbers, provision of quality services to customers becomes a challenge.
In this regard, cellular companies said that they were working alongside PTA to ensure swift provision of quality services to their customers. “We are working with the concerned authorities to clamp down on the use of illegal boosters and repeaters to ensure best provision of services to customers,” said Jazz Chief Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Officer Syed Fakhar Ahmed. Meanwhile, Telenor Pakistan Chief Operating Officer Khurram Ashfaque said that the company ensures installation of devices approved as per PTA guidelines at customers’ premises. “Recently we have observed that some off-theshelf, unapproved and poor quality devices have been installed at certain locations,” he said.
“Boosters in particular create unwanted signal interference and degrade experience of mobile customers in their vicinity.” He requested the PTA and FAB to take steps to restrict the availability and use of such boosters in a bid to ensure uninterrupted signal quality to mobile customers. Meanwhile PTA spokesperson said that the authority was making efforts to curb the menace of signal boosters and added that the entity was serving notices and taking actions against their installation.
“The authority is working hard to end the issue of illegal signal booster,” he said. “We take actions on the request of customers and companies.” “We have successfully managed to increase signal strength in many areas based on customers’ feedback,” he added.