March statistics: Broadband subscriptions edge past 12 million

Overall mobile users decline 1.25% after biometric verification

Our Correspondent April 20, 2015

KARACHI: Amidst a decline in the overall user base, the cellular mobile operators (CMOs) managed past 12 million mobile broadband subscriptions at the end of March 2015, statistics from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) revealed on Monday.

The overall user base of the telecom sector decreased by 1.25% to 134.9 million in March compared to 136.6 million in the previous month, reflecting a decline in growth as a result of the biometric re-verification of subscriber identity module (SIM) cards, which concluded on April 12.

However, the five mobile operators added or converted 1.7 million users to their next-generation mobile network – third generation (3G) and Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G technologies – during the same month. The number of mobile broadband users (3G and 4G combined) increased by 17% to reach over 12 million at the end of March compared to 10.3 million in the preceding month.

The number of overall subscriptions fell mainly because the CMOs blocked millions of SIMs that were disowned or remained unverified during the biometric re-verification drive. Moreover, the cellular operators were barred from selling new SIMs through retail channels, which further slowed down their sales.

It may be recalled that the government had directed CMOs to re-verify 103 million SIMs through the BVS technology by April 12 – the directive came after the terrorist attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School on December 16 last year.

As of April 8, the five CMOs combined were able to verify 77 million SIMs and blocked another 16.7 million after processing 60,496,307 CNICs, according to the PTA, significantly reducing the overall cellular subscriber base from a high of 138.6 million as of August 2014 – the cut-off date for biometric re-verification of SIMs.

The post-April 12 position will be clear once the PTA releases data for April. However, as per official statistics as of March 31, 2015, Mobilink had 38.2 million subscriptions, retaining its position as market leader.

Telenor was the second largest operator with 36.6 million connections at the end of March followed by Zong that finished the month with 27.4 million SIMs on its network. Ufone stood fourth with 21.5 million users and Warid Telecom had 11 million users at the end of the month under review.

In the broadband segment, Telenor Pakistan was dominating with 3.5 million 3G users followed by Zong that had 2.9 million users as of March 31. Mobilink had 2.86 million users on its 3G network while Ufone had 2.66 million subscriptions.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st,  2015.

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