Digital Pakistan: Broadband Subscriptions Soar to 100 Million

Broadband subscriptions in Pakistan have soared from 2 million in 2012 to 100 million now, according to the country's telecommunications regulator. Ookla, recognized globally for its broadband speed testing, reports that Pakistan's average broadband download speed is 11.35 Mbps, while its upload speed stands at 10.7 Mbps. Thousands of kilometers of new fiber optic cable is being installed and mobile data usage in Pakistan has recently surged to 8,000 petabytes. Smartphone sales are also swelling. All signs are pointing to Digital Pakistan becoming reality in the near future. 

Broadband Subscriptions Growth in Pakistan. Source: PTA


Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA),  the nation's regulator, said in a statement that 87% of the population has access to the internet at the lowest rates. PTA claims the average download speed is 17.7 Mbps, and the upload speed is 11.3 Mbps, higher than the speeds measured by Ookla recently. Ookla found that mobile download speed in Pakistan is 40% faster than in India. It reported that download speed in Pakistan has grown 24% over last year, while the speed in India grew 12% in the same period. 

Broadband Subscriptions Growth in Pakistan. Source: PTA Via Monis Rahman


Rising broadband subscriptions have triggered a significant increase in Internet data, particularly with the spike in Internet traffic caused by the COVID19 pandemic related lockdowns. Mobile data usage in Pakistan has recently soared to 8,000 petabytes. 

Mobile Data Consumption in Pakistan. Source: Rogue Economist


Both the private sector and the government are laying thousands of kilometers of new fiber optic cable to deal with growing mobile broadband subscriptions and expanding coverage. In addition, the growth in international data traffic is being met with new high-speed undersea cables. 

Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) is  96 Tbps (terabits per second), 15,000 km long, privately owned submarine cable that will originate in Karachi, Pakistan and run underwater all the way to Marseilles, France via multiple points in the continent of Africa.  It is being built as part of Digital Silk Road sponsored by China. Cybernet and Jazz are the local landing and global connectivity partners of PEACE Cable System in Pakistan. It will enable high-speed access to a variety of content, cloud computing, gaming and video streaming platforms.  

PEACE Undersea Cable Route. Source: Submarine Cable Networks

The laying of PEACE undersea cable in Pakistan's territorial waters will begin in March, following government approval this month for Cybernet, a local internet service provider, to construct an Arabian Sea landing station in Karachi, according to Nikkei Asia. The Mediterranean section of the cable is already being laid, and runs from Egypt to France. The 15,000 kilometer-long cable is expected to go into service later this year.   
A 820-kilometer long China-Pakistan fiber optic cable has already been laid between the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan in the south and the Khunjerab Pass, China in the north  and operational since July, 2018. It is currently being extended to Karachi for connection to PEACE cable. 
When completed, PEACE cable will be Pakistan's 7th highest bandwidth, lowest latency undersea connection to the global Internet system. Currently, there are 6 international submarine cable systems connecting Pakistan, including SMW3, SMW4, SMW5, IMEWE, AAE-1 and TW1. PTCL is the landing party in Pakistan for SMW3, SMW4, AAE-1 and IMEWE cable systems, operates cable landing stations in Karachi. SMW3, SMW4 and IMEWE land at Hawksbay, while AAE-1 lands at Clifton. Transworld Associates Private Limited (Transworld, or TWA) privately owns the TW1 cable system and is a member of the SMW5 consortium. Both TW1 and SMW5 land at Hawksbay and terminate at Transworld's cable landing station in Karachi.  
Rapid growth in subscriptions has led to a huge increase in imports of smartphones in the country. The nation’s mobile phone imports have swelled by 51.5% to $1.3 billion in July 2020- February 2021, from $865m in the same period last year. Pakistan has begun local assembly of low-cost smartphones to meet soaring demand.  Since the introduction of the mobile phone manufacturing policy in March 2020, several smartphone assembly plants have been set up to produce 18 million units annually. 
Soaring broadband subscription, swelling data usage and huge surge in smartphone sales are all pointing to Digital Pakistan becoming a reality in the near future. 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on April 7, 2021 at 12:23pm

Pakistan ready to adopt digital financial solutions on large scale, says Easypaisa CEO

“Pakistan is rapidly progressing when it comes to mobile broadband. Our country has enormous potential with respect to widening financial inclusion through digital solutions. Currently, 95 million people across the country use mobile broadband, a number which has grown by 50 million in the past 5 years. A majority of adults have broadband connections in Pakistan serving as a backbone to developing a digital payments ecosystem in the country.” said M. Mudassar Aqil, CEO Easypaisa/Telenor Microfinance Bank, while talking about Pakistan’s financial services landscape.

“96% individuals have a biometrically verifiable ID issued by the government, indicating that a robust regulatory framework is in place which is supported by credit bureaus. Despite these fundamental factors, 70% of Pakistanis don’t have access to financial services when the rails to address these challenges are in place,” he added. During COVID-19, digital payments witnessed a boom. According to the SBP’s quarterly report, 296.7 million e-banking transactions, valuing at PKR21.4 trillion, were carried out during Oct – Dec 2020, growing by 24% in volume and 22% in value compared to the same quarter last year.

“During COVID-19 industry numbers of digital transactions grew at an exponential rate. At Easypaisa, our annual throughput increased by 64% as compared to the previous year reaching PKR 1.5 trillion in 2020. Similarly, the number of active Easypaisa App users reached 3.44 million, registering a 54% increase in comparison to previous year.” he commented. Pakistan is predominantly a cash-based economy. However, things are changing as the use of digital payments is taking center-stage.

Mudassar opined: “The Pakistani economy is ready to adopt digital financial solutions on a large scale as opening a mobile wallet account on a smartphone or feature phone takes less than a minute. Roughly PKR 6 trillion or about one-third of the country’s deposits are in circulation. This is one of the highest percentages anywhere in the world and the only way to reduce this is for every adult in the country to have a mobile wallet. Furthermore, all retail outlets in Pakistan should be mandated by law to accept digital payments from mobile wallets. Tax incentives should also be introduced making digital payments cheaper than cash.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 9, 2021 at 7:03pm

Edkasa launches mobile app to revolutionise on-demand learning in Pakistan

https://nation.com.pk/10-Apr-2021/edkasa-launches-mobile-app-to-rev...


LAHORE-Edkasa, a fast-growing education technology startup in Pakistan, has launched its new exam prep mobile application, aiming to reach millions of secondary school students. Edkasa already has a user base of 55,000 students and more than 40 schools throughout Pakistan that currently use its solutions. This new exam prep app is an evolution of this work, and will leverage and grow its existing community. The company has already helped thousands of students, and recorded over 1.3 million hours of viewing time with over 250,000 queries answered by its teachers in 2020. “Education is the biggest bridge between the world that we have, and the world that we want,” said Annum Sadiq, Co-Founder of Edkasa along with Fahad Tanveer. “Edkasa is a dream coming to fruition, as we prepare to educate millions of Pakistani learners.”

The new mobile application, available to download for Android smartphone users (iOS will be available soon), features an initial quiz to gauge a student’s requirements, and then offers customised studying paths based on their needs such as a specific exam, subject, or exam board. Matric and Intermediate students from classes 9-12 can view over 4,500 video lectures on demand and take quizzes based on 15,000 past paper multiple choice questions (MCQs) to gauge their understanding of specific topics. Students can also see how they rank on the app’s leaderboard, compared to fellow Edkasa students from across their exam board, city, or country to get a sense of where they stand. Students sign up for the app for free, continue with a monthly subscription fee starting as low as Rs 899 per month, gaining access to Edkasa’s learning material in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English. Edkasa teachers are highly qualified, with experience educating thousands of students.

The Edkasa app has been designed with feedback from Edkasa’s pre-existing user base, and is also aimed at countering the effects of school closure and an uncertain learning environment due to Covid-19. The launch comes ahead of Board examinations in June, and gives young learners in Pakistan a timely chance to revise studying material.

Edkasa, co-founded in 2017 by LUMS alumnus and Fulbright Scholar Annum and LUMS and Harvard alumnus Fahad, leverages mobile broadband technology to offer online remedial classes for standardised exam preparation. Its Chief Technology Officer, Muneeb Ali, a GIKI gold medalist, is also the founder and CEO of OneByte, which works with pre-seed, early-stage, and growth-stage startups to help build their products.

The company raised a pre-seed round of USD320,000 led by i2i Ventures, with participation from Walled City Co., Zayn Capital, and strategic angels in Southeast Asia. The investment was made to build out the exam prep app and scale Edkasa’s e-learning impact with students across the country.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 16, 2021 at 6:58am

Fortune at the bottom of the digital pyramid


https://www.pk.undp.org/content/pakistan/en/home/blog/2021/fortune-...


The majority of Pakistan’s online users come from a lower socio-economic segment with low levels of literacy. They have come online recently and are navigating interactive devices like smartphones for the first time in their lives. Most of them only use apps like Whatsapp (100%) and Facebook (about 60%) and very few of them do online shopping.

Most blue-collar workers which include drivers, cooks, guards, office boys, electricians, gardeners and shopkeepers fall in this group. Only a quarter of them have access to consistent, stable internet connectivity. Still getting familiarized with the majority of features on their newly acquired smartphones, they do not occupy the same digital spaces, and are unable to navigate most of the sites and apps that most of the upper socio-economic segment frequently uses.

To install a new app on their smartphones, most users typically have to uninstall other apps they use, due to lack of space. Phones also crash routinely due to insufficient memory. There is also a major language and user interface barrier as most interfaces are in English. A recent survey conducted by Rozee in worker colonies revealed that their primary mode of online communication is through voice notes on Whatsapp, followed by messages written in Urdu. Some also use Facebook, Tiktok, Google, and Youtube. Many are neither aware of nor have ever used the web browser on their phones. Few local online services have been built understanding these constraints.

Meanwhile, the number of Pakistan’s online users has skyrocketed during the last five years. To be more precise, out of 85 million connected smartphone users in Pakistan today, a staggering 70 million came online just during the last five years. In the last year, e-commerce and mobile payments growth have swelled 300% to 400%, further propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Majority of the users have second-hand Chinese handsets and widely available 3G/4G networks.

Prevailing conventional wisdom amongst our local digital ecosystem is that this segment is not profitable and difficult to monetize. Thus, the focus has been on the Haves rather than the Have-nots. The former orders gourmet food on FoodPanda, buys eye shadow on Daraz, a DHA plot on Zameen, or a bank executive job on Rozee; while the latter have been largely excluded from participating in the massive opportunity created by this quickly evolving digi-sphere. While our e-commerce market has rapidly grown to over USD $4 billion annually, this growth has come almost entirely from the top 40% of the online users.

However, there are some very encouraging early signs of disruptive progress.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the majority of daily wage workers were displaced as supply chains, businesses and affluent households closed their doors. The Rozee team spent considerable time in worker colonies digitally onboarding unemployed workers on to a donation platform named Project Pakistan. They engaged 60 volunteers from worker communities armed with smartphones. They recorded videos of workers, assessed household incomes, digitally verified ID cards, and did skills assessments. The software identified the neediest of them. In three months, donations were digitally sent to 10,000 households consisting of over 60,000 people. Thanks to technology, a core team of only five people from Rozee managed to make this happen.

Building on this experience, Rozee and UNDP partnered for the development of Rozgar.pk – a blue-collar employment platform that digitally onboards the often ignored blue-collar worker segment, and connected them with part-time or full-time opportunities near them.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 23, 2021 at 4:56pm

Pakis­tan’s imports of cellphones swelled by 56.74 per cent to $1.54 billion in the first nine months of 2020-21 compared to $979.965 million over the corresponding period last year.

https://twitter.com/bilalgilani/status/1385728340229767170?s=20

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 23, 2021 at 5:05pm

Tech in the Post-Pandemic World
Assessing its future, both the bad and the good.

Kara Swisher
By Kara Swisher
Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/opinion/tech-covid-future.html


The freaky video of the New York Police Department’s robot dog owned the internet earlier this month. The minute that DigiDog creepily trotted out of a public housing building, many people decided that the “Terminator” future had arrived — and that humanity was doomed.

Humanity is not doomed. But the hubbub got me thinking about how to assess the future of tech, both the bad and the good, in the wake of the pandemic.

Much like the major changes that raced through American society after the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic (also after World War I), this will be a jarring time. Here’s my take on five of the key arenas we need to be thinking about post-pandemic.

Telecommuting. Work, and specifically its shift from the office to the home, has been one of the most significant changes of the past year. Of course many jobs still require physical presence, but the number of workers who do not have to be analog is vast and growing.

These so-called knowledge workers have realized — even with all the griping about being on Zoom all the time — that it can be both cheaper and more productive to have a work force that is more flexible in terms of place and time.

----------

Telehealth. Health care is another area that was ripe for disruption prepandemic, as the industry had resisted tech for many years. A number of giant companies like Microsoft and Google have tried to streamline the consumer health experience, while many others have been part of digitizing the back end, but it’s still a miasma of confusion. The pandemic only underscored the poor state of the country’s health services.

-----------------

Retail. Physical retail — including restaurants and bars — has been under enormous pressure for years, as tech companies have increasingly placed themselves between the goods and customers. All the while, tech companies have been building one moat after the next to solidify their strength by providing better service, streamlining delivery logistics and offering better prices.

----------------

Tele-education. Online education has not worked out so well in the past year. A reliance on virtual education has taken a toll on our mental health and revealed inequities in internet access. It’s still a problematic experience for most users. Everyone I talk with agrees that it’s been a failure for most students.

--------------

Innovation. The most important thing to come out of the pandemic could be a flowering of innovation, across a wide variety of sectors. After the 1918 pandemic, the 1920s saw a burst of aggressive ideas, most especially with the introduction of the television.

While I can’t predict what the 2020s equivalent of that will be, if I had to guess, I would say we’ll see new breakthroughs related to the messenger RNA technology used to develop several Covid vaccines. Such a thing would be both ironic and fitting, and in keeping with how innovation works: Out of the ashes of great distress comes a major discovery. And the rest is, as they say, history.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 17, 2021 at 7:02pm

#KP province of #Pakistan takes lead in #IT sector with first-ever #5G trial. Experimental test in #Peshawar comprises remote surgery concept & cloud gaming. The trial in Peshawar will increase pace of #internet penetration in Pakistan. #Telecom #Tech
https://tribune.com.pk/story/2305786/k-p-takes-lead-in-it-sector-wi...

The country took one step further towards expanding its internet horizon on Thursday with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) conducting the successful test of 5G technology for consumers at the Durshal Incubation Center in Peshawar.

The PTCL Group and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board (KPITB), under the umbrella of Department of Science and Information Technology, conducted the 5G trial in a limited environment on a non-commercial basis.

The demonstration included successful remote surgery concept, cloud gaming and an overview of anticipated 5G technology applications in Pakistan. Once the infrastructure and systems are operational, surgeons will be able to perform surgeries remotely in the far-flung areas.

Once operational, Pakistan would join a select group of nations benefiting from the latest internet tech. The first country to adopt 5G was South Korea way back in 2019. Other leading nations like Switzerland, Kuwait, Finland, Qatar, US, UK, China, Italy, Spain, Australia etc followed later.

There are a host of others, including India, who have started making remarkable progress with 5G or have already achieved 5G technology. Noman Ahmed Said, Chief Executive Office (CEO) Si Global said that there were several advantages in introducing 5G in Pakistan.

The advantages, he added, included increased bandwidth along with faster speed with the potential to integrate seamlessly with technology that supported it. “The 5G, the 5th generation mobile network, enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, objects, and devices,” he told The Express Tribune.

K-P Senior Minister and Minister for IT, Science and Technology Atif Khan termed the 5G trial in Peshawar a “significant milestone in the history” of K-P. Speaking at the trial, he congratulated all the stakeholders on “making significant contribution to this latest technology demonstration”.

“This technology, once deployed, will enable provision of best medical and healthcare facilities to remote areas, provide international-level education opportunities to the underserved areas, and have a significant overall impact on the socio economic landscape of the country,” he added.

The main challenges facing the developing counties like Pakistan in implementing 5G is that “we have very recently implemented 4G for which the overall roll-out phase is still incomplete”, Said said. “There are also major technical challenges that we are likely to face while deploying 5G.”

According to Said, there were various security aspects of the 5G networks, which were an ongoing issue and added: “We are currently not technologically competent to handle the many security glitches of 5G networks.”

He said: “Additionally, there are infrastructural hurdles that will need to be completely reworked and will also involve heavy costs in doing so. Spectrum costs, costs of increased network density and dynamic spectrum sharing are also issues that are to be considered.”

Said said that introducing 5G would be a massive step in the formation of a Digital Pakistan in accordance with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, adding that 5G would facilitate the move towards digital currency and cryptocurrency, putting the country at par with the rest of the world.

According to Si Global CEO, implementation of 5G could ultimately change the technological landscape of Pakistanm but stressed that several arrangements had to be made prior to its implementation.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 8, 2021 at 7:49am

IT ministry to establish more software technology parks

https://pakobserver.net/it-ministry-to-establish-more-software-tech...


He (Minister of IT) said the (Pakistan federal) government had also decided to set up an information technology park near the Jinnah International Airport in the trade and business hub of Karachi at a cost of Rs 31 billion.

The IT park would house about 210 IT companies having 8,400 employees. Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) would act as the project executing agency and complete it in six years.

The IT park would span over an area of 106,449 square meters with eight floors above the ground and three basement floors, he said.

To a question, the official said the ministry of IT had recently inaugurated IT Park in Islamabad, consisting of twelve-storey self-contained building on covered area of 66,893 square meters.

The IT Park would be developed with state-of-the-art infrastructure and allied facilities for IT companies with financial assistance of Exim Bank, Korea, he added.The project, he said, would be completed in 30 months with the total cost of Rs 13.72 billion.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 8, 2021 at 6:09pm

#Samsung plans #smartphone assembly in #Pakistan. Smartphone imports in Pakistan have swelled by 63% to $1.860 billion in 11MFY21 from $1.138bn in the same period last year. There are over 100 million #mobile #broadband subscribers. DAWN.COM

https://www.dawn.com/news/1633812

South Korean tech giant Samsung has been in talks with three investors for setting up a mobile manufacturing unit in Pakistan.

Sources said out of three parties, one has a franchise from Korea which has already set up vehicle assembling plants in Pakistan under Auto Development Policy (ADP) 2016-21, while other two are different parties.

They said so far no agreement has been signed as Samsung, after short listing various companies, is in the process of finalising its plan to award the licence to one of the companies for cellphone manufacturing.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker said in an earnings estimate on Wednesday that it expected operating profit of around 12.5 trillion won ($11 billion) for April to June, up from 8.15 trillion won a year earlier.

Companies being shortlisted for award of licence

“The Korean company aims to start local assembly of cellphones in the last quarter of this year,” a source, who is looking after the development in the mobile phone sector, told Dawn on Wednesday.

Market sources said Samsung may prefer the option to ink the agreement with one of the Korean companies operating in Pakistan owing to comfort level which it may not find with non-Korean firms.

The Engineering Development Board (EDB), an arm of the Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP), approved Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy (MDMP) in 2020 and so far 21 companies have been given the green signal for mobile device manufacturing authorisation from March to June 2021.

As per EDB list, factories’ locations include Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Islamabad. Some prominent brand names include Nokia, Oppo, Infinix, Tecno, Itel, Vivo, Alpha, Realme, VGOTEL, DCODE, Calme, Xcell, Spice, TCL, Alcatel, etc.

Sources said that the government has framed MDMP to encourage foreign players to take a plunge in Pakistan for setting up cellphone manufacturing unit. The aim is to produce the product under the banner of “Make in Pakistan” and to discourage imports.

Cellphone imports, as per figures of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), have swelled by 63pc to $1.860 billion in 11MFY21 from $1.138bn in the same period last fiscal year.

According to the Economic Survey 2020-21, during July 2012 to February 2021, telecom sector has attracted over $3.9 billion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The FDI in telecom during July-February FY21 was $101.1 million. Telecom operators have invested an amount of $363.9m during July-December FY21.

The main driver behind this investment is the cellular mobile sector which has invested $253.5m during the period. The overall investment in the telecom sector during the first eight months of FY21 crossed $465m. Pakistan’s cellphone subscribers have reached 183.48m till May 2021.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2021 at 7:25am

Lucky Motor to produce of Samsung-branded mobile #smartphone in #Pakistan beginning in December 2021. Plant will be located at LMC’s existing plant facility producing vehicles at Bin Qasim Industrial Park, Special Economic Zone, Port Qasim, #Karachi. https://www.brecorder.com/news/40107634

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1416039226492129281?s=20

Lucky Motor Corporation (LMC), a subsidiary of Lucky Cement Limited, has entered into an agreement with Samsung Gulf Electronics Co., FZE (Samsung) for the production of Samsung-branded mobile devices in Pakistan, stated a notice sent to the country’s stock exchange on Friday.

“In pursuance of this transaction, LMC has also initiated the process of seeking necessary regulatory approvals to carry on the said business and, in this endeavor, has filed an application with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for securing the license,” added the notice.

The notice added the production facility for producing Samsung mobile devices will be located at LMC’s existing plant facility producing vehicles at Bin Qasim Industrial Park, Special Economic Zone, Port Qasim, Karachi.

Secretary informs parliamentary panel: 'Samsung poised to enter local market; two firms short-listed'

“The production facility is anticipated to be completed by end of December 2021. That further information on the amount contemplated to be invested in the production facility and the capacity thereof shall be discussed between the Parties (Samsung and LMC) in due course of time.”

LMC is currently engaged in the business of manufacturing, assembly, marketing, distribution and sales of Kia and Peugeot branded vehicles, parts and accessories thereof, in Pakistan.

The development comes as a major landmark for Pakistan that has been pushing to join the league of smartphone manufacturing countries.

In a bid to boost Pakistan's telecom and manufacturing sector, some 21 new companies have been authorised to start local manufacturing/assembly of mobile phones.

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