'Using cellphones since all they did was make calls... barely'

Monday, March 07, 2005

A look into the telecommunication industry of Pakistan

Over the years Pakistan, a really backward and poverty-stricken country of a population of a 150million people has now become a powerful economy of the worlds largest continent, Asia. It has developed vastly in terms of technology, finance and other major sectors.. but im not here to talk about that. I’m here to tell you about the major developments that have taken place in the telecommunication sector and what ‘I’ as a cellphone freak would like to happen next. Pakistan has currently 7 cellular operators providing mobile communication at an affordable rate compared to other developed countries.. two of these seven operators operate on AMPS/TDMA so lets leave them aside and we are now left with 5, namely Telenor; the 12th largest cellular service provider in the world ranked by the GSM association. Warid telecom which is backed by the Dubai-based Sheikh Al Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan. This group also owns a well renowned bank in Pakistan. Mobilink which was the first ever GSM provider. It started its operations 10 years ago and still is stuck on GSM and sadly is the largest network with the largest coverage but what matters to people like me is not coverage of villages and sub-districts but upgrading technology rather then staying on GSM. Mobilink has invested up till now $750MN on its network expansion and customer subscription base. It has 63% of the market share. (the total cellular subscriber base is around 6.5 million users) Here I would like to point out that Telenor and Warid at the time I am writing this article have still not commenced their operations here. They claim they will start in march 2005. Anyway back to the networks. Ufone which is my favorite because it offers GPRS. I still own a mobilink but don’t use it at all. Ufone has 30% of the market share and has cheap outgoing rates thus it’s my preference. lastly Paktel which also operates a TDMA network by the same name. I also own a paktel chip because its good for calling after mid-night.Mobilinks service is intolerable mainly because its expensive and does not offer any kind of data services on its pathetic GSM network and has a huge customer base. Telenor and Warid have stated that they will be offering EDGE or EGPRS as soon as they arrive which interests me. At least something better then slow-speed GPRS would be an achievement and streaming content will be offered and can be used like the recently developed Virgin Radio for series 60 devices. I personally own a Nokia 7610 and am quite happy with it because I can use it for all my needs and there Is no use upgrading to another device until the networks here upgrade. What’s the use if I have a Nokia 6630 3G phone but don’t even have 2.75G or EDGE in my country? I believe in using a symbian device to its total and extreme potential and is why I chose ufone as my operator and a 7610 because it does not offer anything more then GPRS in terms of data services. It can take mega pixel pictures and I can use agile messenger on it. GPRS by ufone is like $0.25/mb which still seems expensive to me and I dream about ufone one day offering unlimited data plans like In the US so I can stay online from agile wherever I go and can use wireless IRC all day because the 7610 does not have Wi-Fi. Let’s move on though as I think most of the people already know the features of the 7610 and don’t need a recap. After the Nokia 3310 and the Nokia 2100, I think the most common nokia cell phone in Pakistan would be the Nokia 6600. it was launched more than 18 months back and is still sold brand new and second-hand devices still get very good prices. A symbian device so common? According to nokia, Pakistan will be its second-largest market in the world by 2007 and it will be starting its manufacturing plant here and it will be operational by the end of this year. That’s good news for us as some people hope the prices will drop but I doubt it. I think nokia has its own standards. It can’t let cell phones be so cheap but still the cheapest sim-free rates are here in Pakistan! You don’t get upgrades or contracts here, a connection costs $3 and you can get a cheap cell phone by brands like Db-tel or Viva or Bird and you’re on your way! I on the other hand cannot settle for anything less then a symbian device. Or a wannabe phone like the Nokia 6230. It too has a good amount of sale as people like it due to its small size and good looks. Moving on, by the way this is my first ever article/analysis on telecommunication. The 6600 the most common symbian phone here but 99% people who use it and I mean it, don’t know what system it operates on, what tri-band is and they don’t know how to use it either. All the things will be left on mainly because they press the ‘red key’ which they think closes the application like in the series 40 phones. But im not making fun, these people have not been provided with the appropriate information about the things they own! Just imagine if they did know all the stuff. They would use it in their lives and would make good use of it. But sadly, that is not the case. Only a few people and I do mean a very few ever spend time to know more about their device or to know its full capabilities. A friend of mine who is a typical example of what I was mentioning earlier bought a Nokia 9500 and almost calls me everyday to ask stupid questions like what is ‘WLAN’ I so wish people knew what they are in for when they choose to buy smartphones. Many small-scale cell phone manufactures have tried to make their way and have their piece of pie in the market of cell phones but what everyone here believes is ‘Nokia is Nokia’ and they don’t trust other brands. I once offered my driver a cell phone a Nokia 2300 to be precise and can you imagine what he said? ‘ I want a Nokia 3310!’ just because everyone had told him that 3310 was the best. He didn’t care about radio or polyphonic ring tones or the cool display and lightweight features. He asked for the cheaper in price and bulky in size 3310! Even a hawker here has a cell phone because a) the connection is cheap and b) phones are cheap too. Pakistan has a HUGE potential for cell phones and networks and mobile technology and I do hope that once telenor and warid arrive, other networks fill be forced to upgrade to EDGE or maybe (by the time im married) 3G which is my dream! Would love to have NTTdocomo as my network operator one day! a trip to a restaurant can show how many people leave their Bluetooth on and accept anything that is being sent to them from anyone! They consider them the hip crowd of the city and when asked what symbian is left munching their tongues. People need to be educated and I as a single person am trying my level best to bring people to reality and educate them about everything. Not just cracked applications and games!Apart from cellular operators Pakistan has also just recently awarded 14 WLL (wireless local loop) licenses but until now only one two such providers have emerged like GOCDMA and PTCL(Pakistan telecommunication limited) V-tel. More information about the licensees can be found on this website Incase you are getting bored I have decided to end this article for now and hope to see good comments about it by the readers. This was my first ever one so please be easy on the critique. I hope you enjoyed reading. Adios!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

what do you do?

i live in the UK and was very interested to read this article. its encouraging that people do know whats going on around in Pakistan.

i contradict with some of your coments though. i believe nokia 7610 is not, afterall, a complete phone. i dont know why 6600 is so famous in pakistan whereas its been totally wiped out by nokia in europe and north america. one phone, you do need to mention here is the nokia 6230. its not a smart phone but it contains all the essentials including, bluetooth, IrDA, mp3 player, radio, 1mp camera, vdo recording, internet, email etc. on the contrary, 7610 does not even have IrDA and the keys confuse most average users unless you been on it for ages. comparing the size even makes a 6230 lead. about price, again, 6230 is around £200 in market and about £130 on eBay whereas 7610 is about £250-300. i believe 6230 is the 3310 of today. it gives much better performance on 900Mhz system because of the internal antenna.. which ofcourse is standard in Pakistan. the triband function is another advantage and the new operators, (warid n telenor) are plannin to install 1800.

i also believe its not fair on mobilink to mention telenor and warid's worldwide successes and forget Orascom (parent company of mobilink). orascom is the major operator in north africa, middle east and pakistan, with pakistan being its single largest base.

talking about the GPRS that ufone offers. if we just look on the consumer side, mobilink has ten times more switches and transmission poles which makes life easier for mobilink users. ufone operates on a ten -year old 900Mhz system which is not sufficient to take all its calls to other networks at the same time.

i have plenty more to say but what you have written is brilliant. good work. hope u get a good response on it.

cheers, Saad

11:39 PM

Blogger zainman said...

Hey saad, nice of you to leave a comment.. im a student at the city school PAF chapter, doing my O levels.

the 6230 is not a symbian phone therefore loses all its marks from my side. it has a puny screen and there aren't that many java applications that can be installed on it unlike the 7610.. (becasue its symbian it can get 4000 plus apps) the 6230 does have EDGE yes but 7610 has a brighter display
would like to correct u that 6230 does NOT have a megapixel camera. the browsing on the 7610 is a treat again due to the much larger screen, the 6230 classified by many people is a wannabe phone, having some of the features of a smartphone still not being one.

the 7610 too is triband so it will have no problems with warid and telenor

orascom is surely mobilinks parent company but no one will doubt that all the investment mobilink has made is to increase the numbers of subscribers, not services. they still boast about POWER TOOLS! come on! whats that shit? yes it has also shifted from 900 to 1800 and it does have more switches but still is relatively expensive and ufones service is less worse then mobilinks.. cant wait to get my hands on a telenor chip!

link my blog to your page and do stay upto date here!

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