LAHORE: The past year has been an interesting one for Pakistan from the point of view of technology and telecommunications. With 2013 well on its way, it is now time to think about what the future holds. No doubt, there is much looming on the horizon: all indicators point to 2013 as a year of better performance and service delivery in the telecoms industry. This is the time for advancement and technological upgrades, and while there will be many developments, here are my top picks for the year to come.
2013 will see the adoption of Cloud services continue to grow in Pakistan. Increasingly, customers – both individuals and companies – will seek to store their data ‘in the Cloud’ as opposed to physical data servers, as well as avail of software services on a ‘rental’ basis. Large MNCs, banks and other financial services companies have already moved into this domain some time ago. Looking forward, educational institutions are likely to take the next step, as digitisation of educational content takes place. Some progressive institutions have already adopted softwares such as Moodle and Learning Management Systems and incorporated their curriculum on them, thereby preparing their scholars for a digital future.
There is also a lot of potential for the government in this regard, like the provision of electronic support to farming in rural areas, and in the consolidation of various departments online on a single portal. All of this requires data hosting facilities that can be provided on the Cloud for relatively low costs.
Mobile internet/open hotspots
3G will play a significant role in pushing mobile broadband and looks to be the next big thing in fulfilling Pakistan’s data needs.
Pakistan has over 100 million cellular subscribers; reportedly, around 10% of these use smart phones. Data usage has grown substantially, and there are an estimated 10 million mobile data users in Pakistan. However, it is important to note that 3G has been overhyped and may actually fall short of expectations, as it has in India.
Almost a year into its launch in India, only 2% of subscribers have opted for 3G services. 3G will require ubiquitous coverage for consumers to be satisfied with the services. WiMAX can play an important role here by offering a solution for data backhauling for telecom operators. Wateen has already deployed around 250 WiFi hotspots in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, and is ideally positioned to fulfill the data needs for mobile operators.
Innovation in the telecommunications sector
Branchless banking and m-commerce services will be the biggest innovations for the year. New entrants (Zong and Askari Bank, and Mobilink and Waseela) have recently launched their offerings and promise to improve the take-up of this service. New payment solutions will also be a first in the country, as smart phones enable swipe magnetic card readers and pioneering companies such as Inov8 Ltd begin to deliver on their potential for the consumer market. Smart phone apps will also be big. These are being developed at an exponential rate, and telecom operators may need to look into developing customised customer relationship management applications to service their customers. Last year, a new system of tracking and predicting dengue outbreaks saved hundreds of lives in Pakistan. The project, another PITB brainchild, created a data management system whereby public sector hospitals sent reports of all suspected dengue patients with their home addresses and test results. This data was mapped and a statistical analysis algorithmically highlighted areas where dengue was likely to spread, allowing pre-emptive action. As a result, deaths from dengue dropped to zero in Punjab. Similar clever uses of mobile technology are likely to proliferate through 2013.
Low-cost handheld devices
Asian countries, especially China and India, are taking the lead in developing low-cost tablets and handheld devices to cater to their large populations.
In Pakistan, some companies have already started bringing Android-based devices for as low as Rs5,000. Indians have recently announced that they will be developing the world’s cheapest tablet for $35. These devices will play an exceptional role in transforming societies. The consumerisation of IT has already started taking place in Pakistan. Companies like QMobile will play an important role in the proliferation of low-cost handheld devices. This, in turn, will impact the use of mobile internet and broadband, open WiFi and WiMAX, as well as Cloud services, as consumers look to access data and media on their handheld devices.
THE WRITER IS THE CEO OF WATEEN TELECOM, AND A BOARD MEMBER OF THE WORLD WIMAX FORUM
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2013.
Like Business on Facebook to stay informed and join in the conversation.