The government’s recent directives to cellular mobile operators (CMOs) about sale of new SIMs and verification of customer data seem to have done the trick. The industry recorded a negative growth in mobile subscriptions in December 2012, according to statistics released by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
Overall cellular mobile teledensity dropped to 68.8% in December last year, down from 69.8% in the preceding month.
Total number of mobile subscribers fell to 121.946 million as all five CMOs combined lost 1.6 million subscribers during the month, reflecting a decrease of 1.3% compared to 123.597 million mobile users as of November 30, 2012.
The negative growth in net subscriptions did not have any impact on the market share of any of the five operators. However, it may be the reflection of PTA’s directives, which required CMOs to block unverified SIMs, stop selling new SIMs through retail networks and restrict the number of SIMs issued against a CNIC to five from December 1, 2012.
The five CMOs had added about 2 million new users to their networks in November 2012, before the December 1 deadline to implement PTA’s directives aimed at addressing security challenges. December’s statistics, however, reflect the impact of the directives.
Ufone, which has the third largest subscriber network, lost more than 500,000 subscriptions in December. Its subscriber base shrank to 23,809,099 users at the end of the month. Market leader Mobilink was not far behind, it lost more than 450,000 subscribers and ended up with 36,141,241 subscribers to its network.
Telenor lost over 245,000 subscribers and closed the month at 30,564,465 mobile users to remain second largest operator in terms of subscriber base while Zong lost more than 229,000 customers to finish at number four with 18,700,507 users at the end of December 2012.
Warid shed over 211,000 subscribers during the period under review. It had a total subscriber base of 12,731,050 at the end of December 2012.
According to sources in the telecom sector, industry’s sales had a massive slump of about 80% following the ban on sale of new SIM cards through retail outlets from December 1 in the wake of PTA’s directive dated November 13, 2012.
Saturday being a holiday in the telecom sector, no officials were available for comment. However, a telecom industry source told The Express Tribune that the decrease in CMOs subscriber base may be a reaction to PTA’s directives.
In order to meet the February 28, 2013 deadline, the source said, CMOs may have blocked unverified SIMs, resulting in this decrease. Secondly, he added, they may also have blocked various SIMs issued against the same CNIC to ensure only five SIMs are issued to a single person – a requirement of PTA.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2013.
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