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3G/4G Launch in Pakistan: Penetration and Impacts

As eventually on April 23rd, 2014 last year Pakistan entered the club of few countries of the world, where 3rd and 4th generation high speed data services in telecom sector are being offered. Pakistani Government sold the 3G/4G spectrum in the total sum of hefty $1.1 Billion. Where out of all five telecom operators of the country 4 of them out took part in the auction, including Mobilink, Telenor, Ufone and Zong excluding Warid Telecom (for reason read complete article).

3G/4G Launch in Pakistan

3G/4G Spectrum Clinch:

Out of all four Telco’s Zong took the lead unexpectedly, where China Mobile subsidiary acquired 5MHz spectrum for 3G and 4G spectrum too with the highest bid and became first and only telecom operator of the country to have both 3G and 4G licenses. Mobilink the countries largest operators as per customer base got 10MHz 3G spectrum thrashing Ufone and Telenor, who only bid and got 5MHz spectrum for 3G services.

Progress in the Launching of Services:

According to PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) 3G subscribers have crossed 5 Million by the end of 2014 and will keep increasing as the time progresses. All telecom operators, who auctioned and paid hefty amount to obtain 3G/4G spectrums are now putting all their efforts in developing the 3G and 4G coverage – all over the country on priority basis.

Current Standing of 3G/4G Coverages in Pakistan:

3G has more coverage than 4G and reason behind this is limited 4G LTE coverage in the country and high cost of 4G enable handsets and services. Since, Pakistan is a price conscious market, people can easily purchase a 3G enable Smartphone in less than $100 and start enjoying 3G.

Coverage Proportion:

Telenor top the charts and emerged as the largest 3G network of the country with the coverage in more than 40 cities all across Pakistan. However, enclose less number of subscribers at present.

Mobilink is also trying to rub its shoulder with Telenor by expanding 3G services in 34 cities of Pakistan. Two significant facts to keep in mind regarding Mobilink 3G roll-out that as we have mentioned above Mobilink was the only operator, who bid and acquired 10 MHz spectrum. This means that Mobilink will be able to offer more reliable speed and efficiency through its 3G services to customers. Moreover, Mobilink was the first mobile operator of Pakistan that reached 1 Million 3G subscriber. Check out this post to get full details of Mobilink Jazz 3G Internet Packages.

Zong Pakistan’s first and only 3G+4G network is also on its way to develop its high speed data services across Pakistan. As of now, Zong is offering 3G service in 25 cities and 4G coverage in various areas of Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Quetta and Peshawar only. Also has the leading number of 3G customers in Pakistan at the moment, but this percentage of users may decrease by the end of February 2015 because PTA has ordered telecom providers to re-verify sims’ ownership via bio-metric method and very less number of people have done this yet; their sims will be blocked after February and it can cause decrease in 3G/4G users too.

Ufone which is country’s 3rd largest mobile operator as far as customer base is concerned. Currently, is lacking behind 3G customer persuasions, having the least number of 3G subscribers presently by offering 3G services in only 27 cities.

Warid Telecom the most laid back mobile network of Pakistan, which tends to remain in low profile, happy with its customer base in urban areas and never aggressively tried to expand it towards rural areas.

Warid does not even participated in the 3G/4g auction, but as you guys would have noticed Warid launched its 4G LTE services recently in Pakistan – do you know why? Because at the time Warid launched its GSM services in the year 2004 for Pakistan, it got 1800MHz band from PTA that was sufficient enough to deploy 4G LTE services in Pakistan. That’s why Warid only amended its license from PTA and launched the latest 4G LTE services in Pakistan – without paying a single penny.

Warid has now officially launched its 4G LTE services commercially for both prepaid and postpaid customers in big cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

Impact of 3G/4G Services:

There are lots of paradigms in which growing 3G/4G services availability in Pakistan would throw positive impact on. Here are some of the noticeable ones below.

  • Internet Access in Remote Areas.
  • Fast & Affordable Internet Plans.
  • Scope of IT Industry Growth.
  • Portable Internet Access for Users.
  • Alternate Source of Communication.
  • More Employment Opportunities.
  • Source to Generate Revenues for Govt.
  • Heavy Investment from Telco’s (Development of Services).
  • Boost in Internet Base Businesses (E-commerce, Web Development).
  • Mobile Application Industry Development (More Smartphone Penetration).

Verdict:

No doubt the next gen data service has certainly laid a whole new perspective amid at internet related services. Off course mobile phone users are also seem much excited, if they came across high speed 3G and 4G coverage available to them on the move. With this facility mobile subscriber will enjoy more internet perks straight form their mobile phone – regardless of where ever they are.

As far as the effect on economy and growth of the country is concerned, certainly will benefit various sectors mainly IT Industry of Pakistan. Surely, 3G/4G is providing various sectors a chance to be serving spoon not only for local clients, but simultaneously for international clients as well in the course of their services. Therefore, all the above aspects after new data services launch in the country – will lure more revenue and investment in Pakistan.

103 Million Mobile SIMS’ Biometric Re-Verification in Pakistan

The latest pondering state of affairs for Telecom Operators of Pakistan unearthed recently, in which all telecom companies have been assigned a task to re-verify all 103 Million non-biometric verified sims. This directive was given by the Federal Government of Pakistan headed for PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) to ensure this implication’s execution through all telecom operators working in the country. This perform a fraction of the NAP (National Action Plan) draft approved by all political parties for tackling terrorism forcefully with strict measures.

Bio-metric Re-Verification of Sims in Pakistan

As we know that Govt introduced the NAP after barbaric APS Peshawar attack by the terrorists that took place on 16, December, 2014. Therefore, along many other significant measures like establishment of Army Courts and this biometric re-verification (BVS) of all mobile sims issued before 1st, August, 2014 was taken without ado. This step was taken keeping in mind usage of non verified mobile sims in heinous terror attacks in the country.

Dead Line:

As soon as Govt gave orders to PTA, which is the telecom regulatory body in Pakistan, authority officials sat down with all five telecom operators (Mobilink, Telenor, Ufone, Warid, Zong) to ensure on time scheduled re-verification of entire chunk of non-registered mobile sims active in the country.

This biometric verification of mammoth 103 Million sims running in the country was also tagged with a deadline by the Govt – in which saying that verification to made in 90 days time.

Now the prescribed deadline for the biometric SIM re-verification is 26th, February, 2015. As a result, if any customer is using non-biometric verified sim, be clear that it will be blocked immediately as the deadline ends. Therefore, all mobile customers have been now regularly given intimations to visit their nearest Service Centers, Franchises or designated retailer shops with original CNIC to verify their mobile sim right away.

Indication Campaigns:

To ensure that each and every customer to be made aware of this fact that they are required to verify their mobile sim, intensive advertisement campaigns are being made. Both PTA and all Mobile Operators are busy in intimating their mobile phone customers to complete the sims’ re-verification process as soon as possible – to keep using their telecom services uninterruptedly.

In this regard PTA has also published dedicated ad in all national newspapers as well, in recent few days.

Devoted Support by Telecom Operators in the Past:

This is not the first time that telecom operators have shown their full support for sim registration and verification process in Pakistan. In 2009 “668” and in 2011 “789” data verification processes were established for mobile customers by PTA, to register their sims. Telcos’ have had to bear substantial cut is new sim sales because of this activation condition for customers. But, telecom operators have always followed the legislation of Govt of Pakistan and PTA directions in the past, now also taking this current re-verification process as a national responsibility.

Moreover, back in 2014, upon government’s command all telecom operators of Pakistan established bio-metric verification system (BVS) with spending about rupees 22 billion on it. This system was set up with the mechanism of over 60,000 BVS machines, installed all across the country. System was state-of-the-art for verification of every new mobile sim purchased by the customer through bio-metric system that was linked with NADRA’s (National Database and Registration Authority) system.

Huge Source of Revenue Generation for Govt:

As Pakistani telecom sectors have emerged as the “hen that lay golden egg” reason of this conjecture is apparent if we go through recent statistics regarding the amount of revenue telecom sector is providing to Government of Pakistan solely.

In last three years contribution in Govt reserves from telecom sector is traced average of Rs. 124.8 billion per annum. Plus in last year with astonishing phenomenal raise during fiscal year 2014, telecom sector has given a record high Rs. 243.8 billions, with chronicle increase of 95.8 % during last year.

Verdict:

As the humongous figure of 103 Million sims is required to be re-verified through BVS, it looks a daunting task for telecom providers. No doubt it’s a vital step too by Pakistan Govt for ensuring that no dubious activities should be made through using unregistered sims in future.

However, according to reports, even after massive advertisements and intimations by PTA and all mobile operators, the turnover for sims re-verification all over the country is very slow. Therefore, in current state of affairs only the time will tell that will it be possible to verify all non-biometric verified sims in Pakistan.

Pakistan Steel Mills Calamity: Reasons of Collapse and Future Possibilities

Pakistan Steel Mills is another model of how corruption and miss handling of vital national assets were spoiled in recent times, with billions of Pakistan’s tax payers money was put into bonfire of bailout packages. The latest example of misconduct in the country is miserable Petrol Crisis.

Pakistan Steel Mills

PSM was Pakistan’s biggest industrial production unit established back in 1985. The foundation of these gigantic multi steel plants was laid at 40 Km southeast of Karachi on massive 18,200 acres. The land was proportionately divided for various activities, such as plants was developed over 8,070 acres, 200 acres were assigned to setup water reservoir, which was the largest in Asia and additional land was designated for storage of raw and various end products after manufacturing.

Moreover, Pakistan Steel also employed considerable 28,000 people till 1991; the significant thing is that steel mills required 14,000 only at the time. The production capacity was about 1.1 million ton with the expansion scoop upto 3 million tons. The main dignitary behind PSM establishment one was a Russian scientist known as Mikhail Koltokof, from native side involved skillful and spirited Pakistani Professor Dr. Niaz Muhammad and Wahab Siddiqui.

Professor Dr. Niaz Muhammad was the main striving force behind execution of this dream, amid at making Pakistan able to produce substantial amount of steel and iron products for coping up with domestic needs and even producing surplus to export to other countries as well. Dr. Niaz Muhammad was also the man behind training abundance employees of PSM including scientists and engineers.

Golden Era:

Pakistan Steel Mills was a profitable well managed organization since its establishment, although was bit overloaded with extra political recruitment of employees time to time. PSM even remained a profitable unit in last Military ruler Pervaiz Musharraf’s regime mainly in years 2001 to 2008.

Collapse:

Nobody could imagine that this country’s largest industrial unit will ever become bankrupt and won’t be able to even pay even its employees’ salaries. The worst time for PSM and its employees started after PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) came into power in 2008. Although, Steel Mills was starting deteriorating in Musharraf’s rule to be fair. Thus, because of overcrowding of useless employees, incompetence of top management, week policies and most significant reason behind PSM collapse was corruption of its top management and affiliated politicians and bureaucrats in the past many years and affluently after 2008 till now.

Privatization Attempts:

As from the first day of PSM establishments, many international countries mainly big steel players of the World began dubious activities against this vital national asset operation. Many local organizations and rich people were also found guilty in its bankruptcy. In 2006 while Pervaiz Musharraf was still in command of the country, when the privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mills took place abruptly by passing many rules and regulations.

Saudi Arabia-based Al Tawairqi Group of companies, Russian based Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works and local hefty Arif Habib Securities paid nominal amount of Rs 21.6 billion ($362 million), or Rs 16.8 per share mutually. This deal authorized these big firms to take control of Pakistan’s largest steel manufacturing plant.

Criticism on Privatization and termination:

The analysis and apprehensions was stated surfacing as soon as this PSM privatization deal tool placed in 2006. Later, it was considered as the one of the biggest con and ruining of countries biggest industrial unit by experts. Furthermore, Transparency International report, employees, print and electronic media and even civil society also raised their voice against this fraudulent agreement.

Consequence, of this protest against PSM privatization was witnessed soon, when on June, 23 nine member bench of Supreme Court Pakistan found serious irregularities in the process and ruled this privatization decision illogical and moved this case to Council of Common Interests. So, that’s how this privatization deal got terminated later, in the profound interest of the country?

Bailout Packages:

The toughest time for Govt initiated when the mentioned privatization deal got terminated by the apex court. Last, PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) led Govt fueled PSM with Rs 40 billion bailout package in its 5 years term to keep it functioning. And now PML-N pilot federal Govt also recently assigned 18.5 billion bailout packages for Pakistan Steel Mills for financial year 2014-15.

This huge amount was mainly used for paying remaining salaries of PSM employees and starting some sort of manufacturing through purchasing raw material for PSM few operational plants. Moreover, present is Govt also making efforts for boosting production capacity of PSM gradually in the coming few months by this financial aid.

Current Situation:

The good news has now starting going off from Pakistan Steel Mills according to latest reports, the production capacity of PSM has touched 45 % out of total capacity at present. This drastic improvement has been seen ever since Govt appointed Major General (Retd) Zaheer Ahmed Khan as CEO, who is in charge of PSM since April 7, 2014. The notable thing is that national steel mill was working at 1.4 % of its total production capability – at the time Major Gen Zaheer took over.

Moreover, the authorities are also claiming that this vital national asset will soon become profitable again in April, 2015 eyeing the present enhancement in its production capacity. This proves that if right people having the will to evolve any sector deployed on right positions, no one can stop Pakistan to progress towards its due place on World’s map.

LNG Import in Pakistan; Can it be a Game Changer?

Pakistan is currently facing a severe energy deficiency for many years now, because of merciless non productive use of its own energy resources mainly Natural Gas. Moreover, recent Govt lacked any long term planning in regard to conquer this immense energy requirements for the country and never seriously considered set up of new projects keeping in mind the ever mounting population.

LNG Import in Pakistan

The situation is so worse that the country’s requirement of Natural Gas daily is of about 6 Billion Cubic Feet (BCF) but the supply is about 4 Billion Cubic Feet. That’s why we see complete closure of CNG stations in the country now in winters and partial closure in summers. The intensive consumption of Natural Gas is in various sectors comprises of CNG, Fertilizer Industry, Garments Industry and the most significant and pensive electricity generation, which consumes around 27.5% of country’s total Gas production. Use of Natural gas in all these industries is because it costs minimal in comparison to many other energy alternatives.

So, to fill the 2 Billion Cubic Feet gap in demand and supply of Natural Gas, which is harming various industrial and service sectors, Govt of Pakistan is now the verge of importing LNG (Liquefied natural Gas) from Qatar.

Background of why thinking about LNG Import:

The humming of LNG import was came into being since PML-N formed Govt in Pakistan after 11th May, 2013’s General Elections. Govt thought of LNG import as a less time consuming and lucrative alternative of energy crisis in Pakistan. Although, there were two ongoing Natural Gas projects, that PPP (Pakistan people’s Party) Govt left unfinished, known as Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipelines. But as these projects have some serious international apprehension and also required lot more time in their establishment. This was the time, when Govt of Pakistan anticipating the instant need of any alternate energy resource around, came across LNG import – as a quicker solution. This was also much needed to prevent industrial shutdown and avoiding thousands of people from losing their jobs, working in energy deficient sectors mentioned above.

Arrangement and Agreement for LNG Imports:

The Govt came into terms with brother Muslim Country Qatar in this regard, an oil and Gas rich GULF country. Qatar is the largest LNG producer of the world and also known as LNG King. Initially Govt kind of finalized an agreement with Qatar for importing 500 MMFCD LNG according to reports. The price for this deal was remained the talking point for many, but for obvious high priced logical reasons.

Government of Pakistan as per information, agreed upon the price of $17/mmbtu, without the cost of Regasification, which is a necessary process of converting liquefied natural gas (LNG) back to Natural Gas. Moreover, price was also excluding shipping and logistic obligation for this import from Qatar.

Hence, as soon as experts and Pakistani media started raising question regarding this prospective LNG Import pricing. For the reason that after research experts and even layman came to know that the agreed upon price was not market competitive. This conclusion came after people got familiar with that neighbor India, who is also Importing LNG from Qatar was doing it in the time period of October 2012 to July 2013, price ranging between $10-12/mmbtu, and the price was never hiked more than $11/mmbtu in 2013.

Therefore, the apprehensions concerning the high price tag attached with this LNG import was later considered valid by Govt. The effect of this criticism over LNG import agreement with Qatar, govt restrained from fixing the long term price for this Import. Now the Govt is considering adopting spot price formula for this agreement, which will allow Govt to secure market competitive price on the time of deal for the amount of import at that particular time.

Current Scenario for this Import:

The current standing of this significant import deal is that a Qatari delegation will soon visit Pakistan for finalizing this all important LNG import agreement with Pakistan. Also Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also said that the first consignment of LNG will arrive in Pakistan in initial days of February, 2015.

Also first LNG terminal having the capacity of storing 0.4 million cubic feet LNG per day is about to compete situated in Port Qasim Karachi. This pioneer LNG terminal is being established by ENGRO Pakistan, and ENGRO is also responsible for importing first LNG Consignment from Qatar in private sector, before Govt complete laying dedicated pipeline for this import.

Why Called Game Changer:

The reason behind it’s being said a game changing deal for Pakistan, is because it will cost about 30-35% cheap alternate energy resource in comparison with petrol. Therefore, as per latest reports, Govt is also thinking of converting diesel and furnace oil based power plant to LNG for ensuring the cheap electricity production in the country. As a result of all this common people of Pakistan can expect some sought of relief coming their way; this will be in the shape of contentious and economical availability of CNG and electricity.

Petrol Crisis in Pakistan: The whole Story behind Mismanagement

Petrol Crisis in Pakistan

People of Pakistan primarily people of Central Punjab and Islamabad region, went through disastrous situation regarding petrol famine. Millions of people from the most heavily populated and alleged most prosperous province of Punjab came across never thought of circumstances of not able to basic commodity to keep running their life vehicle called petrol.

Embarrassment for PML-N led Government:

Crisis prevailed abruptly in the middle of January, 2015, when in first 2 days people came across unavailability of petrol in some petrol pumps, but as the days passed by the shortage shaped as the lack of procurement completely. That’s when noise started echoing of countless people from the big cities of Punjab including Provincial Capital Lahore and Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan and also heard in Countries Capital Islamabad.

All this could not happen overnight, since Ministry of Petroleum is bound to ensure 21 days oil storage in the country.

On Ground Situation on hike of Petrol Shortage:

Initially it was close to impossible for people to find a petrol station – where the petrol is available; secondly if somehow people found one, the never ending queues of 4 wheelers and two wheelers broke the hope of many straight away regarding the possibility of getting petrol from there. But as Pakistani people is known for their resilience, most of them stood still in the long wait for their turn to get some drops of fuel to reach offices & business next day and importantly their homes that day.

Ground situation was so worse that because of the numerous incidents of verbal fights turning into physical on most petrol stations, owner of petrol stations called the Police for controlling the crowd. State of affairs for getting petrol on 17th & 18th January, 2015 was the most terrible, when first time in the history of the country, whole families including children’s and females were also seen whole weekend, standing in the long queues holding cans in their hands to obtain petrol.

Some unique tricks was also been used by creative instinct people, who wore “Burkas” (Traditional Female Muslim Overdress) for obtaining petrol easily.

Man in Burka seeking Petrol

Moreover, the spillover was also went to Karachi – were out of panic and rumors artificial shortage of petrol was also seen erupting, which was later dispel by Govt with instant measures.

Various uttered Reasons behind Crisis:

As per a report, which have been constituted by the Prime Minister of Pakistan formed two members probe committee, put the responsibility on Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) for this crisis. Furthermore, as per committee findings it endorsed suspensions of four key incumbents holding key positions in OGRA and Ministry of Petroleum.

But as per Minister of Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi statement, who apologized from the Government from the people of Pakistan and also offered his voluntary resignation upon found guilty for this debacle. He innocently called it mismanagement and extensive increase in demand of petrol in the first week of January, 2015 for this shortage, during a press conference in Islamabad last week.

Conclusive Reason following Crisis:

However, the sources claimed that the main reason behind this crisis was the delayed or no payment to Pakistan State Oil (PSO) by various Govt fractions – mainly Ministry of Water and Power. This was the prime reason why, PSO was unable to import oil shipments on time. According to stats the Power Ministry is liable to pay huge sum of around Rs 171 billion to PSO in the sake of furnace oil, which they procure to IPP’s (Independent Power Producers) amid at generating electricity.

 Steps taken by Govt for future:

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who canceled his Switzerland tour, which was meant for him to attend World Economic Forum, is now making himself aware every measure taken in the regard of ensuring smooth availability of petrol in the whole country. Moreover, premier is also holding high profile meeting on the daily basis with key ministers, to take certain measures – so that this won’t happen again.

Furthermore, according to reports, the latest buzz is in the air of capital Islamabad that some major PML-N leaders is demanding resignation and reshuffle of responsible Govt ministers, to be made right away for face saving.