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Heavy investments continue in 3G/4G infrastructure

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KARACHI: (Web Desk) Companies providing cellular services continued to invest in advanced internet infrastructure development in a bid to tap millions of potential new users in Pakistan.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has reported that cellular firms have invested another $659.4 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2016.

According to the PTA, cellular firms earned 22% (Rs99 billion) of total revenues (Rs453 billion) from sales of 3G/4G/LTE data in the year under review.

Pakistan’s 3G, 4G user base rises to 32 million

A firm said it is earning handsome revenues, which are fuelled by “major growth in mobile data that has registered a phenomenal growth of 200% on month-on-month basis in October 2016”.

A recent announcement of the firm added the company “plans of investing in an additional 1,000 4G sites across Pakistan after the company achieved its 2016 4G rollout plan, three months ahead of schedule. The addition of 1,000 4G sites will take the overall tally of (the firm’s) 4G sites to around 6,000 by the end of this year, making it the largest, widest and fastest in terms of 4G coverage,” it said.

Parvez Iftikhar, an Information and Communication Technology expert, said that cellular firms are investing in 3G/4G infrastructure deployment, as they have more ground to cover.

“The companies are yet to provide advanced internet services such as 4G in the entire cities like Islamabad [the capital],” he said. “They are still not going to small towns.”

The new investment of $659.4 million is equivalent to 67% of what the cellular firms invested last year (ie second year of their 3G/4G services in Pakistan), and 37% of the investment they made in the year they launched the advanced internet service in the preceding year (2013-14).

A significant portion (ie $1.2 billion) of the total investment made in 2013-14 was spent to buy 3G/4G licences. Warid did not participate in the licencing auction, as it already had a licence to offer the advanced data service ie LTE. Telenor bought 4G licence in the last fiscal year (2015-16).

3G/4G/LTE users

PTA reported that the number of 3G/4G/LTE users increased by 1.12 million (or 3.28%) on month-on-month basis to 35.44 million in October 2016.

Pakistan’s 3G/4G users doubled to 29.53 million in FY16

ICT experts said that there is huge potential for growth in number of advanced data users in the country, as the number is much lower than what officials of online shopping portals and branchless bankers predict for 2020.

They added that the potential of new internet users seems higher when compared to the existing total number of mobile phone users in the country at 135 million in October 2016.

The ratio of mobile internet users stands at a quarter of the total mobile phone users.

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