Behind the scenes: Warid Telecom likely to jump into 4G

Published: April 25, 2014
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PTA needs time to sell the unsold spectrum before it could give the go-ahead to Warid. PHOTO: FILE

PTA needs time to sell the unsold spectrum before it could give the go-ahead to Warid. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

In a move that will certainly take everyone by surprise, Warid Telecom – the only cellular service provider in the country that refrained from participating in the April 23 spectrum auction – is gearing up to launch Long-Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G services in top five cities by end of May, The Express Tribune has learned.

Warid is very close to launching 4G services in Pakistan, sources with direct knowledge of the subject confirmed on the condition of anonymity. The Pakistani subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Group has been in talks with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the telecom sector’s regulatory body, for launching LTE service on its existing network – this was also confirmed by a top government official.

Now the question here is whether they can do it without acquiring a 4G/LTE spectrum from the PTA? The answer would be a yes.

Warid has a very low subscriber base – less than 10% of Pakistan’s 132.3 million cell phone subscriptions as of January 2014. About 50% of the company’s network, therefore, remains unutilised, giving it the capacity to hold additional traffic on the same network. Moreover, the company already has 8.8 megahertz (MHz) bandwidth in the 1800 MHz spectrum – the same frequency, which the PTA has chosen for the roll-out of 4G technology.

Since the company has a technology-neutral licence, all it needs is an official permit from its regulator to launch an LTE service on its existing network – the process, in tech terms, is known as re-farming.

“Warid would have announced their plans to launch 4G on the auction day, had the PTA approved their request,” said an official who requested not to be named for he was not authorised to disclose this information.

“The PTA’s response has been encouraging and it’s expected that soon after due approvals from the former, the company will be testing 4G services on its network most likely by the end of May,” the official said, adding that the PTA needs time to sell the unsold spectrum before it could give a go ahead to Warid.

Though all of this plan is subject to the PTA’s approval, Warid has been gearing up to introduce 4G services around the same time that Zong – the only operator to have acquired a 4G licence in the country – is likely to come up with its 4G offers.

“Warid is in final talks with all the leading smartphone brands in Pakistan for 4G-supported handsets,” the official said – these brands include Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Google Nexus, Huawei and Apple’s authorized resellers in Pakistan, he said.

Sample handsets, dongles and USBs have been bought for 4G testing in certain locations, according to the official. The Huawei cloud – which receives 4G signal and converts them to Wifi – is also an option.

“The company is expected to launch a trade program too, to replace existing handsets with the LTE handsets,” the official said.

The official further said that the orders had been placed with existing vendors for 4G sims and testing is in process.

A top government official confirmed that Warid has the required licence to deploy 4G services but insisted that the company would have to adhere to the rules and regulations set for deployment of these services. “The company would have to comply with the PTA’s requirement for technology roll-out, network quality and legal intercept compliance,” he concluded.

Warid is the only company with a 100% backend support from a European vendor – the company’s hardware comes from Sweden-based Ericson which is one of the world’s top telecom equipment makers. The company enhanced its network in 2012, which resulted in improved quality for its current Edge technology.

“Warid has been an urban-centric cellular service provider and it will most likely continue this strategy,” the official – not the government source – said, after being asked whether switching to LTE network would restrict the company’s outreach.

“The hype surrounding the company’s acquisition has died down already and it has performed above industry average – in terms of sales – during last six months,” the official said.

This rebuilt investor’s interest in the company, he said, adding that this would guarantee more investment towards infrastructure upgrade if need be.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (53)

  • mabdulrehman
    Apr 25, 2014 - 1:38AM

    So all other companies are dumb who are bring almost $250 million each

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  • Hafiz
    Apr 25, 2014 - 1:40AM

    But as we know, Warid is for sale from the last year? Isn’t it?

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  • Satan
    Apr 25, 2014 - 3:14AM

    All the Pakistani owned telcom companies telenor ufone and mobilink are super dumb. People who would be having LTE support from now on on their smart phones wont settle down for 3g. Imo.

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  • local
    Apr 25, 2014 - 3:37AM

    @mabdulrehman other companies weren’t dumb to pay $250m. They were dumb not to get a technology neutral license upfront. Warid is simply playing its cards based on the decisions they took during inception. On the other hand, Warid has been a failure with a shrinking subscriber base even when Mobilink was giving poor customer service. Hats off to Zong on making everyone look timid and increasing their share Paktel would’ve been dead by now if not bought out by Zong.Recommend

  • zem
    Apr 25, 2014 - 5:29AM

    It’s interesting that this news comes out after the auction has completed. Warid has become the butt of a lot of jokes. If this news is true then they should have planted this article before the auction so as to preempt any criticism.

    @mabdulrehman:
    Other companies have limited bandwidth. Warid does not because its business is in decline.

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  • Saad Maqsood
    Apr 25, 2014 - 5:36AM

    Good job!!! Now PTA to the logical thing of unblocking youtube, so they may actually use 4g.

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  • WordLife
    Apr 25, 2014 - 6:03AM

    What an absolute Master Stroke by Warid ;)

    @ Hafiz no they are not on sale anymore

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  • Dr. Israr
    Apr 25, 2014 - 7:02AM

    We are desperately waiting for the 4G launch from Warid. End of May 2014. Let’s see what happens next.

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  • A. Khan
    Apr 25, 2014 - 7:23AM

    At last, LTE in Pakistan. Finally someone has the sense to go straight to LTE without getting into 3G as that technology is already past its sell by date. I would think the PTA, with prompting from other providers, will not be too happy about this. Other providers would be extremely unhappy about this as they have shelled out millions of dollars and another company has a head start. A possible buy out in the making ?

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  • Asif
    Apr 25, 2014 - 7:57AM

    @mabdulrehman:

    I guess you didn’t read this part properly:

    Warid has a very low subscriber base – less than 10% of Pakistan’s 132.3 million cell phone subscriptions as of January 2014. About 50% of the company’s network, therefore, remains unutilised, giving it the capacity to hold additional traffic on the same network. Moreover, the company already has 8.8 megahertz (MHz) bandwidth in the 1800 MHz spectrum – the same frequency, which the PTA has chosen for the roll-out of 4G technology.

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  • Obaid
    Apr 25, 2014 - 8:14AM

    @mabdulrehman

    Don’t think you read the article carefully

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  • Ghostrider
    Apr 25, 2014 - 8:50AM

    This is called focus on the long term…

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  • Silent Observer
    Apr 25, 2014 - 9:34AM

    Sony partnership with Ericsson for cell phones has ended 2 years back and now the brand is know as “Sony”

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  • Ifzal
    Apr 25, 2014 - 9:48AM

    Smart Move. A moment of cheer for Warid customers.

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  • goldconsumer
    Apr 25, 2014 - 10:13AM

    One license of 4g still remains to be sold.

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  • lhrpk
    Apr 25, 2014 - 10:39AM

    There is nothing clever about this strategy by Warid. They have a small share of subscribers hence they can accommodate 4G spectrum in the frequency they already have, whereas bigger mobile operators had to buy more frequency bandwidth so that they can give 3G/4G services to its growing consumers. Secondly, there is a very small base of users who own true smartphones with 3G/4G tech, and another factor will be the high costs of using 3G/4G services. As of now there is a very limited scope of usage for such services by the general consumers, these services will mostly be used by small & big firms/NGOs. As for 3G tech, well I assume most companies will deploy 3.5G or HSPA+ tech under the 3G license, & it is quite fast, so I really don’t understand why people want 4G LTE tech when there is no need for it as consumers would most likely use their phones for emails, chat or video calling, which works flawlessly on 3.5G/HSPA+ tech.

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  • S
    Apr 25, 2014 - 12:04PM

    @silent observer, i think what you are referring to is the handset division.

    They are talking about telecommunication equipment.

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  • Shuja Rehman
    Apr 25, 2014 - 12:08PM

    WARID’s initial license was technology independent and so was for TELENOR and they are using it wisely.
    There is no point to get to the interim 3G state when you can provide much advanced service.
    It’s not that other operators have been wasting their time and money, it’s a smart move by Warid only where TELENOR could have done the same.

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  • Ali
    Apr 25, 2014 - 12:33PM

    I am Warid subscriber since its inception and was planning to switch to Zong. Confused again!

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  • KNOW IT ALL
    Apr 25, 2014 - 12:49PM

    The other companies are not dumb, if you read the article properly, you will notice it states that Warid has a very low subscriber base – less than 10% of Pakistan’s 132.3 million cell phone subscriptions as of January 2014. About 50% of the company’s network, therefore, remains underutilized, giving it the capacity to hold additional traffic on the same network.
    Hence the reason for not bidding.
    Also Telenor and Zong are not Pakistani companies Telenor is Swedish and Zong is a subsidiary of China Mobile.

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  • Apr 25, 2014 - 1:07PM

    great move warid (y)

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  • Schazad
    Apr 25, 2014 - 1:15PM

    Depends on PTA now if it allows an operator to launch 4G as it was tough on Ufone to not allow 4G license without buying 10 MHz in 2100 MHz band although Ufone had assured to have additional 5MHz 3G from its existing 900 MHz band. Secondly Warid still can have only 5 MHz in 1800 band for LTE while Zong and other licensee will get 10 MHz for LTE. Not to forget, carving 5 MHz out of existing 1800 band will adversely impact 2G network quality as frequency plan will have to be very tight in dense urban areas causing high interference and poor quality. On top of all that, 4G is available only on limited handsets like Iphone 4s onwards, Samsung S4, Note 2/3, HTC 1, LG Nexus, Sony Xperia Z and high end windows phones by Nokia. So the claim to replace existing handsets with 4G compatible ones is a very far fetched idea.

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  • Asif
    Apr 25, 2014 - 1:22PM

    There could be a bigger picture to it as well, GoP wanted to auction two 4G licenses whereas new operators were also expected to bid for fresh mobile licenses. Both the things could not materialize.

    Now Warid may launch 4G with out paying for the license (and company is up for sale as well), due to increased competition any one of the three existing 3G operators would have to procure remaining 4G license to stay in the competition, that would make three 4G operators leaving only two companies behind. One of the remaining company may subsequently acquire Warid and as a result would become 4G enabled leaving only one company behind and that could be Ufone. Sponsors of PTCL (parent body of Ufone) may subject their remaining payment of USD 800 million to the NoC (free of cost) from PTA to operate as a 4G service provider which GoP may agree to.

    Though it is a far far fetched idea but it is going to create win win situation for all the companies (telecos, cell phone manufacturers) and GoP as well, and Pakistan without experiencing 3G for long would become LTE enabled. :)

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  • Osman
    Apr 25, 2014 - 2:01PM

    @Silent Observer, Ericson itself is a seperate company, One of leading communications and telecom equipment manufacturers.Recommend

  • kazim
    Apr 25, 2014 - 2:01PM

    Without 3G ? directly on 4G? how?

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  • LSE
    Apr 25, 2014 - 2:37PM

    Good Luck to you Warid Telecom from your loyal Customer since 2007-2008.

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  • Daas Nahk
    Apr 25, 2014 - 2:59PM

    Correct the following: Ericson -> Ericsson, Sony Ericsson -> Sony and Google Nexus -> Google Play Devices,

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  • Anum
    Apr 25, 2014 - 3:04PM

    @Ali

    Why are u confused? Warid didnt need to buy the license through auction because it already had it. it just needs an NOC and it will jump direclty to providing LTE/4g which is better than 3g..

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  • Hamid
    Apr 25, 2014 - 4:23PM

    From a close industry source, warrid is on their way out. This is just propaganda so that they sell out with the maximum profit.

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  • Aastha
    Apr 25, 2014 - 4:26PM

    Customers would be so pleased with satisfying services being offered day by day which makes them happy customers!

    A recent survey was conducted by one of the most research companies asking about the satisfaction level of the customers and surprisingly the results indicated in the research was that Warid users were the most happiest followed by Mobilink and remaining network services.

    http://www.gallup.com.pk/pollsshow.php?id=2014-04-07

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  • Daas Nahk
    Apr 25, 2014 - 5:00PM

    @kazim:
    separate technologies, can exist independently.Recommend

  • Ammar
    Apr 25, 2014 - 5:01PM

    @Schazad:

    I think you need to read the story once more, as it says “Since the company has a technology-neutral licence, all it needs is an official permit from its regulator to launch an LTE service on its existing network – the process, in tech terms, is known as re-farming. :P

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  • Ammar
    Apr 25, 2014 - 5:11PM

    @Schazad:

    Warid’s Bandwidth is 8.8 Mhz in 1800 Mhz spectrum :P

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  • Hassam Tahir
    Apr 25, 2014 - 6:46PM

    @Satan: LTE services are going to be very expensive. Going as high as 3000 to 4000 rs on a 4gb limit. 95% of Pakistan can;t afford that. Also LTE phones are barely available in the market. Thirdly, when they are they will also be very expensive. Because of these three reasons LTE and 4G penetration has remained low around the globe especially in developing nations, so much so, LTE services are not even profitable in India

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  • Hassam Tahir
    Apr 25, 2014 - 6:48PM

    @zem: The news was already there. I read about this a week before the auction (that is when the warid ceo met the PTA chairmen)

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  • Hassam Tahir
    Apr 25, 2014 - 6:49PM

    @mabdulrehman: Even if the launch 4G on their current network they will have to shrink there subscriber base by almost 50% and it still won’t be fast enough

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  • Hassam Tahir
    Apr 25, 2014 - 6:50PM

    @A. Khan: 3G is still far successfully technology than 4G and LTE as they are very expensive. So much so, 4G services are not even profitable in India.

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  • Hassam Tahir
    Apr 25, 2014 - 6:53PM

    @Asif: Warid is no longer up for sale

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  • Hassam Tahir
    Apr 25, 2014 - 6:54PM

    @Anum: but the service still won’t be as good as other 4G services which have the right spectrum

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  • A. Khan
    Apr 25, 2014 - 10:57PM

    @lhrpk: We could also keep using cycles or even horse carts to get to and from work. But we don’t. LTE is the way to go. Mobile telephony costs are already amongst the lowest in the world. Despite that, companies are still finding it profitable.

    Give it time, everybody will want to watch TV while on the go. So others might be spending twice, once on upgrade to 3G and then to LTE in a couple of years time. I for one would prefer a company with a smaller subscriber base as a provider than a very large one.

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  • Badar
    Apr 25, 2014 - 11:42PM

    This is called A GREAT STRATEGY!!! Thank God i don’t need to change my network.. I love Warid

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  • Badar
    Apr 26, 2014 - 12:05AM

    Love you Warid!!!

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  • Shah (Berlin)
    Apr 26, 2014 - 2:45AM

    Dear Readers,

    please read the news again…the other networks are not dump….Warid due to low subscribers has 50% of its bandwidth remains utilized !!!

    Regards

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  • sardarzaheer
    Apr 26, 2014 - 9:46AM

    If this is true…i am amazed to learn this fact that why it was only Warid given tech. neutral license even though it was not the first one to introduce telecom services. and if it as given deliberately to cater to someone’s interest should be cancelled immediately to avoid any possible loss to national exchequer. and culprits with in regulatory body should be brought to justice…it is quite unjustified with other telecos who have just paid a billion $ to be able to provide such services

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  • Muhammad Mudssar
    Apr 26, 2014 - 1:45PM

    The process would not remain transperent if this happens even if there existing network is unutilized. No body should be allowed to provide services without paying for the license. No lunch is free lunch. if they are allowed to provide services then they should pay extra so they understand if the authority is making any permit giving round they should participate instead making meetings with official to bypass it

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  • Shariq
    Apr 26, 2014 - 2:54PM

    Iam amazed with that news that they just need NOC,still could nt blv,agree with the fact that they have the spectrum ,low subscribers and equipment but how they will allowed without paying any thing just NOC….
    The ROI for all the providers are very low and long term because of very less number of data customer in Pakistan….

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  • fahad khan
    Apr 26, 2014 - 11:19PM

    @goldconsumer:
    no there is no more licenses left,…. only there was 2 licenses..

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  • Idrees
    Apr 27, 2014 - 3:50PM

    it was for sale for the last 3 years but could not get a customer. Now they have decided not to sell it till they get an attractive offer.

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  • Usmank
    Apr 27, 2014 - 4:40PM

    @Shariq:
    @Muhammad Mudssar:

    Bhai loug! even telenor has tech neutral licenses. before pakistan had only mobilink and ufone. then two tech neutral licenses were offered for bidding and warid and telenor won. so actually they have already paid the exchequer for 2G3G4G5G and so on. The only conditions being they have to abide by standard pta terms(obtain NOC) spectrum should be tech compatible(ofcourse) and able to accomodate their traffic on the current spectrum. Warid’s spectrum is 4g compatible, and having a lower consumer base can accomodate its traffic on the current spectrum. the only hinderance is the NOC. while telenor having a very large base cannot accomodate data and voice traffic on its single spectrum thus the need to obtain a new spectrum.

    The thing about the remaining license is crucial. mobilink which is qualified for the license is not interested(for some odd reason). Now will pta relax its terms and offer it to ufone or telenor. If not then will it be sold outside? who will buy? someone from outside?? we know certain companies were interested but wanted exclusive access. pta ruled against it and gave preference to existing networks over the cash and investment outsiders may have bought! both options had their pros and cons but Pakistan(having waited so many years) could have waited another one or two but could have earned more money and sourced some FDI!

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  • Muhammad Nasir
    Apr 28, 2014 - 6:31PM

    Dear sir please till me i can investment in warid company if yes i can so what has process have for investment please full info till me

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  • ayub
    Apr 29, 2014 - 10:37AM

    Nice……

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  • Fahad Azam
    Apr 30, 2014 - 1:27AM

    warid has the highest nunber of post paid connectios btw @local:

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  • Sadaat
    May 2, 2014 - 3:11PM

    4G AND 4G LTE are different things bro, who ever wrote this, need to update his knowledge about 4g and LTE

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