Pakistan - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts

Publication Overview

This report provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications market in Pakistan. Subjects covered include:


  • Key Statistics;
  • Market and Industry Overviews;
  • Regulatory Environment and Development;
  • Major Telecom Players (fixed and mobile);
  • Infrastructure;
  • Mobile Voice and Data Market;
  • Internet, including VoIP;
  • Broadband (fixed, wireless, mobile);
  • Broadcasting and Digital Media;
  • Scenario Forecasts (fixed-line, mobile and internet subscribers).

Researcher:- Peter Evans
Current publication date:- November 2014 (20th Edition)

Executive Summary

Auction of 3G licences in Pakistan provides a much-needed boost to the country’s telecom sector

With mobile operators in Pakistan starting to shift their focus to value-added services, there was much anticipation in the market place when the PTA finally issued 3G licences through an auction process in April 2014. The government had in fact started to assign these licences way back in 2007. But delay after delay had occurred, much of which had not been properly explained by the authorities. When the licences were finally issued there were rapid network rollouts by the four operators that had secured licences at auction. In the meantime, overall mobile subscriber growth was continuing at a healthy rate of around 10% as the total number of subscribers passed 140 million in mid-2014.

Whilst the regulatory authorities had badly fumbled the task of auctioning the 3G licences, there was much of a positive nature in the Pakistan government’s opening up of the telecom market. The progressive implementation of the reform plans over a number of years had triggered a period of strong growth in the local telecom market. Up until recently the energy and growth was predominantly in mobile services; as the mobile market moderates, the focus has shifted to broadband access in its various forms. In the meantime, there has been no significant activity in fixed-line services as originally intended and in fact subscriptions in this sector are in decline.

Earlier on Pakistan’s telecom market had struggled with the transition from a regulated state-owned monopoly to a deregulated and competitive environment. The government initially focused on fixed lines setting out ambitious plans to increase fixed-line teledensity. After peaking at around 4% in 2008, fixed penetration had fallen to around 3% coming into 2014. And, at the same time, the majority of these fixed lines were in urban areas. A more balanced distribution would certainly be desirable in the longer term as 70% of Pakistan’s population live in rural areas. Some good news in the fixed-line market seemed to come with the arrival of Wireless Local Loop (WLL) services and the licensing of a multitude of WLL operators. This technology helped sustain what the limited fixed-line segment. WLL services constituted around half of the total fixed-line subscriber base by 2012, but this market segment had also started a decline by 2014.

Meanwhile, the focus of the market changed; the whole telecom landscape in Pakistan having shifted to mobile services with a phenomenal expansion occurring in this sector from 2005/2006 onwards. The number of mobile subscribers jumped from less than two million to 100 million in just eight years. Interestingly, despite the significant tightening of the national economy during 2009 the mobile market continued to expand at an annual rate of between 5% and 10%. The mobile networks were already covering well in excess of 90% of the population by then and this coverage continued on its expansion path.

While mobile penetration was strong and continuing its positive growth, internet penetration remained at relatively low levels coming into 2014. Broadband growth had been of particular concern with almost negligible growth for many years; finally, 2008/09 saw a promising upsurge in broadband subscriptions and this fresh growth pattern growth looked to be continuing, boosted by the spread of competition throughout the market and the increased adoption of wireless broadband solutions. Total broadband penetration remained relatively low, however, sitting at around 2% by mid-2014.

Control of internet content remained a big issue in Pakistan. The government has directed that the monitoring of websites for ‘anti-Islam content’ be undertaken by the PTA, the telecom regulator. By 2012, amid growing concern about greater restrictions on internet access in the country, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HCRP), an independent body, said that already about 13,000 sites were inaccessible. The regulator said that the figure was closer to 2,000 sites. By 2013 the censorship of the internet by the government was becoming more intense. In a move in the opposite direction, in May 2014 Pakistan’s parliament voted unanimously to lift a ban on YouTube which had been blocked in the country since 2012.

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year

Table of Contents

  • 1. Key Statistics
    • 1.1 Country overview
      • 1.1.1 Background
      • 1.1.2 Economy
  • 2. Telecommunications Market
    • 2.1 Overview
    • 2.2 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
  • 3. Regulatory Environment
    • 3.1 Overview
    • 3.2 Background to development
    • 3.3 Regulatory authorities
      • 3.3.1 Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT)
      • 3.3.2 Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)
      • 3.3.3 PTA’s administrative actions
      • 3.3.4 Problems undermining PTA’s regulatory role
      • 3.3.5 North Waziristan Agency (NWA)
      • 3.3.6 Shut down of mobile networks
    • 3.4 Telecom sector liberalisation
    • 3.5 Telecom Policy - 2014
    • 3.6 Regulatory developments
      • 3.6.1 Late night phone tariffs
      • 3.6.2 International Clearing House (ICH) - background
      • 3.6.3 International Clearing House (ICH) – developments - 2014
      • 3.6.4 Operators accused of tax evasion
      • 3.6.5 PTCL accused of anti-competitive practices
      • 3.6.6 Dispute over origination charges resolved
      • 3.6.7 Special regions of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K)
      • 3.6.8 National numbering scheme
      • 3.6.9 Number portability (NP)
      • 3.6.10 Infrastructure sharing
      • 3.6.11 Security
  • 4. Fixed Line Operators
    • 4.1 Overview
    • 4.2 Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL)
      • 4.2.1 Overview
      • 4.2.2 Background
      • 4.2.3 PTCL and the regulation of tariffs
      • 4.2.4 Financial performance
      • 4.2.5 Privatisation of PTCL
    • 4.3 Other fixed network operators
      • 4.3.1 WorldCall group
      • 4.3.2 TeleCard
      • 4.3.3 Wateen Telecom
      • 4.3.4 Licensing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
  • 5. Telecommunications Infrastructure
    • 5.1 National telecom network
      • 5.1.1 Overview
      • 5.1.2 Fixed line statistics
      • 5.1.3 Wireless Local Loop (WLL)
      • 5.1.4 Worldcall Telecom in dispute with PTA
      • 5.1.5 Background to opening up of market
      • 5.1.6 Rural services
      • 5.1.7 Universal Service Fund (USF)
      • 5.1.8 Mobile services
      • 5.1.9 Fibre optic networks
      • 5.1.10 Broadband networks
      • 5.1.11 Payphones and Public Call Offices (PCOs)
      • 5.1.12 Next Generation Networks (NGNs)
      • 5.1.13 Backhaul
    • 5.2 International infrastructure
      • 5.2.1 International gateways
      • 5.2.2 Pakistan-India link
      • 5.2.3 Submarine cable networks
      • 5.2.4 Satellite networks and systems
    • 5.3 Infrastructure developments
      • 5.3.1 Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
  • 6. Internet Market
    • 6.1 Overview
    • 6.2 Background
    • 6.3 Internet and broadband statistics
    • 6.4 Major government initiatives
    • 6.5 Internet control and censorship
      • 6.5.1 Background
      • 6.5.2 Developments – 2012 / 2013
    • 6.6 ISP market
      • 6.6.1 ISPs
    • 6.7 E-services
      • 6.7.1 E-commerce
      • 6.7.2 E-government
      • 6.7.3 E-education
  • 7. Broadband Market
    • 7.1 Overview
      • 7.1.1 Infrastructure development
      • 7.1.2 Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL)
    • 7.2 Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
    • 7.3 Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH)
    • 7.4 Cable modem
    • 7.5 Wireless broadband
      • 7.5.1 WiMAX
      • 7.5.2 Internet via satellite
    • 7.6 Mobile broadband
      • 7.6.1 Long Term Evolution (LTE)
  • 8. Digital Media / Digital Economy
    • 8.1 Broadcasting
      • 8.1.1 Market overview
      • 8.1.2 Regulatory issues
      • 8.1.3 Free-to-Air (FTA) broadcasting
      • 8.1.4 Pay TV
      • 8.1.5 Cable TV (CATV)
      • 8.1.6 Internet Protocol TV (IPTV)
  • 9. Mobile Communications
    • 9.1 Overview
      • 9.1.1 Background to development
    • 9.2 Mobile statistics
    • 9.3 Third Generation (3G) licences
      • 9.3.1 Background
      • 9.3.2 Auction – 2013 / 2014
      • 9.3.3 Licensing
      • 9.3.4 Launch
    • 9.4 Fourth Generation (4G) / Long Term Evolution (LTE)
    • 9.5 Regulatory issues and developments
      • 9.5.1 Number portability
      • 9.5.2 Control of SIMs
      • 9.5.3 Licensing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
      • 9.5.4 Levee on handsets
    • 9.6 Mobile voice services
      • 9.6.1 Prepaid
      • 9.6.2 Satellite mobile
    • 9.7 Mobile data services
      • 9.7.1 Short Message Service (SMS)
      • 9.7.2 Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
      • 9.7.3 Blackberry
      • 9.7.4 Mobile TV
      • 9.7.5 M-commerce / m-banking
      • 9.7.6 Innovation in mobile financial services
    • 9.8 Major mobile operators
      • 9.8.1 Overview
      • 9.8.2 Mobile operator statistics
      • 9.8.3 Mobilink (PMCL)
      • 9.8.4 Ufone (PTCL)
      • 9.8.5 Telenor Pakistan
      • 9.8.6 Warid Telecom
      • 9.8.7 Zong
      • 9.8.8 Instaphone (Pakcom)
      • 9.8.9 Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)
  • 10. Forecasts
    • 10.1 Forecasts – Fixed Line Market – 2015; 2020
    • 10.2 Forecasts – Internet Market – 2015; 2020
    • 10.3 Forecasts – Mobile Market – 2015; 2020
    • Table 1 – Country statistics – 2014
    • Table 2 – Telecom revenue and investment statistics – 2012
    • Table 3 – Telephone network statistics – 2013
    • Table 4 – Internet user statistics – 2013
    • Table 5 – Mobile statistics – May 2014
    • Table 6 – National telecommunications authorities
    • Table 7 – Pakistan’s real GDP growth rate – 2005 - 2015
    • Table 8 – Pakistan’s total telecom revenue – 2004 – 2013; 2020
    • Table 9 – Pakistan’s telecom investment – total and mobile - 2004 - 2013
    • Table 10 – Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in telecom sector – 2002 - 2013
    • Table 11 – ‘Fixed-line’ licences issued by PTA – 2014
    • Table 12 – Fixed-line (wireline) subscribers by operator – September 2013
    • Table 13 – Fixed-line (wireless) subscribers by operator – 2013
    • Table 14 – PTCL fixed wireline subscribers – 2000 - 2013
    • Table 15 – PTCL WLL (fixed wireless) subscribers – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 16 – WorldCall’s WLL (fixed wireless) subscribers – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 17 – WorldCall’s fixed wireline subscribers – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 18 – TeleCard’s WLL (fixed) subscribers – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 19 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1991 - 2014
    • Table 20 – Fixed wireline subscribers – 2004 - 2013
    • Table 21 – Fixed wireline v. fixed wireless (WLL) subscribers – 2004 - 2013
    • Table 22 – Fixed wireline subscribers by operator and market share – September 2013
    • Table 23 – WLL subscribers – 2005 - 2014
    • Table 24 – Fixed-line (wireless) subscribers by operator – 2013
    • Table 25 – Public Call Offices (PCOs) – 1999 - 2013
    • Table 26 – Internet users – 1995 - 2014
    • Table 27 – Fixed internet subscribers – 1997; 2000 - 2014
    • Table 28 – Historical - dial-up internet subscribers – 2005 - 2011
    • Table 29 – Total broadband subscribers – 2004 - 2014
    • Table 30 – Fixed broadband subscribers – 2004 - 2014
    • Table 31 – Broadband subscribers and market share by technology – April 2014
    • Table 32 – Fixed broadband subscribers and households – April 2014
    • Table 33 – Total international internet bandwidth – 2004 - 2014
    • Table 34 – Broadband subscribers by type – 2009: 2011 - 2013
    • Table 35 – PTCL broadband subscribers – 2007 - 2013
    • Table 36 – DSL broadband subscribers – 2005 - 2014
    • Table 37 – FttH subscribers – 2007 - 2014
    • Table 38 – Cable modem subscribers – 2008 - 2012
    • Table 39 – Wireless broadband subscribers – 2008 - 2013
    • Table 40 – WiMAX subscribers – 2008 - 2014
    • Table 41 – Mobile broadband subscribers – 2009 - 2014
    • Table 42 – Key broadcasting statistics – 2013
    • Table 43 – Cable TV subscribers – 2003 - 2013
    • Table 44 – Mobile subscribers – 1995 - 2014
    • Table 45 – Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change – May 2014
    • Table 46 – Mobile operators, subscribers and market share – May 2014
    • Table 47 – Mobile services revenue – 1998 - 2013
    • Table 48 – Mobile services revenue – 2011 - 2012
    • Table 49 – Historical - overall ARPU across all mobile operators – 2002; 2004 - 2009
    • Table 50 – Mobile monthly ARPU by operator – 2009
    • Table 51 – Proportion of prepaid mobile subscribers – 2005 - 2013
    • Table 52 – Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change – May 2014
    • Table 53 – Mobile operators, subscribers and market share – May 2014
    • Table 54 – Mobilink (PCML) subscribers – 2000 - 2014
    • Table 55 – Ufone (PTCL) subscribers – 2001 - 2014
    • Table 56 – Telenor Pakistan subscribers – 2005 - 2014
    • Table 57 – Telenor Pakistan - ARPU – 2009 - 2012
    • Table 58 – Warid Telecom subscribers – 2005 - 2014
    • Table 59 – Zong subscribers – 2000 - 2014
    • Table 60 – Historical - Instaphone (Pakcom) subscribers – 2000 - 2010
    • Table 61 – Forecast fixed line subscribers – 2015; 2020
    • Table 62 – Forecast internet subscribers – 2015; 2020
    • Table 63 – Forecast mobile subscribers – 2015; 2020
    • Chart 1 - GDP growth rate - 2005-2015
    • Chart 2 - FDI in telecom sector - 2004-2013
    • Chart 3 - PTCL fixed wireline subscribers - 2000-2013
    • Chart 4 - Fixed lines in service annual change and teledensity - 2005-2014
    • Chart 5 - Fixed wireline vs. fixed wireless subscribers - 2005-2013
    • Chart 6 - WLL subscribers by operator and market share - 2013
    • Chart 7 – Public Call Offices - 1999-2013
    • Chart 8 - Internet users 2005 - 2014
    • Chart 9 - Internet and broadband subscribers 2004-2014
    • Chart 10 - Broadband Technology market share - April 2014
    • Chart 11 - Broadband subscribers by type - 2009-2013
    • Chart 12 - Broadband, FttH and WIMAX subscribers - 2008-2014
    • Chart 13 - Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 2000-2014
    • Chart 14 - Mobile operators and market share - May 2014
    • Chart 15 - Mobile operators and subscribers – May 2014
    • Chart 16 - Mobile operators and market share – May 2014
    • Chart 17 - Mobilink (PCML) subscribers - 2000-2014
    • Chart 18 - Ufone (PTCL) subscribers - 2001-2014
    • Chart 19 - Telenor Pakistan subscribers - 2005-2014
    • Chart 20 - Warid Telecom subscribers - 2005-2014
    • Chart 21 - Zong subscribers - 2005-2014
    • Exhibit 1 – Long Distance International (LDI) licensees – 2011
    • Exhibit 2 – Local Loop (LL) licensees – 2011
    • Exhibit 3 – Wireless Local Loop (WLL) licensees and status- 2013
    • Exhibit 4 – PTCL subsidiary companies
    • Exhibit 5 – Joint ventures and affiliated companies

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