Warid Telecom will invest $400 million over the next 12 months in rollout costs for its Long Term Evolution (LTE) services; upgrade 70% of its urban network to fourth-generation (4G) mobile technology by the end of 2014, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The Lahore-based subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Group has contracted Ericsson – a leading global vendor of LTE infrastructure – as its technology partner to ensure steady and quick roll-out of these services, the company told its subscribers in a recent letter. The 4G services, according to the letter’s text, would be available to Warid’s customers by September 2014.
The Swedish communications technology provider will be upgrading Warid’s network as the latter plans to cover 70% of the urban areas by the end of 2014, said an official who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to comment. “Warid will be investing $400 million in rollout costs over a period of one year,” he said.
The smallest operator by subscription, Warid is the only cellular service provider in the country that opted out of the April-23 spectrum auction.
The company later announced its plans to launch 4G services and sought an early rollout but they couldn’t get the required approval from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority – telecom sector’s regulatory body.
Subject to the government’s approval, the company was hoping to commercially launch its LTE services in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad soon after Eid-ul-Fitr, an official had previously told this to a correspondent in an interview.
The PTA, however, was reluctant because of concerns raised by China Mobile Pakistan [Zong], the only operator to have acquired a 4G licence against an investment of $210 million. To counter the Chinese influence, Warid also mobilised diplomatic channels in Abu Dhabi to press the Pakistani government for an early approval, according reliable sources.
This time around, Warid has conveyed to its customers – in the aforesaid letter – that it will be able to provide its LTE services by September.
“This new date has come from the company’s government relations department, which is in talks with the regulator,” the official said. “Warid has to wait until the end of September,” he said, hinting that Zong would have launched its LTE services by then.
“Warid will be technically ready for the launch of 4G services by September,” the official said.
Giving details, the official said they already passed 50 Megabits per second (mbps) – though theoretically – during the test phase at their technical hub in Kot Lakhpat area of Lahore. This speed, he said, would come down to about 35 mbps when launched commercially. This means that the end users will get up to 6 mbps at an individual level – if an impact [reduction] of one-fifth is considered.
However, the official acknowledged that subscribers in some areas might receive as low as 3 mbps. “But over time, this will also improve,” he said. In order to get the PTA’s approval Warid needs to comply with the rules and regulations set for deployment of 4G services.
Mainly an urban-centric cellular service provider, Warid has a very low subscriber base – about 13 million subscriptions as of April, 2014. About 50% of the company’s network remains unutilised, giving it the capacity to hold additional traffic on its existing network, the company argues.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2014.