Pakistan on path to become a mobile friendly nation

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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 185, 25 August 2021

Emerging mobile phone industry in Pakistan



Pakistan on path to become a mobile friendly nation

Pakistan on path to become a mobile friendly nation

Ankit Singh
PhD Scholar, School of Conflict and Security Studies

As of 25 August 25, 2021, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), cellular subscribers has reached 184.90 million, with 0.65 million new subscribers in July alone, the outlook currently is extremely optimistic. The digital economy argument is further supported by 101.59 million 3G and 4G users in Pakistan. 

 


Who uses mobile phones in Pakistan?
Since the 2010s, Pakistan has witnessed an increase in mobile phone users by volume and density, 82 per cent of its population has access to cellular subscriptions and 45 per cent of the population enjoys high speed 3G/4G mobile internet. Therefore, it is pertinent to profile the cell phone industry of Pakistan along with the consumer preferences in the mobile industry. In terms of gender, 78 per cent of males and 28 percent females claim to own a mobile phone. The urban woman is more likely to possess a mobile phone than a rural male. In terms of demography, the maximum number of users, comprising 77 per cent, lie in the age group of 21-30. The PTA reports have pointed out that it is the semi-urban areas of Punjab province, like Bahawalpur, Sadiqabad, Hyderabad, Abbottabad and Mardan which have led the mobile penetration. According to the GSMA report on Asia-Pacific, there will be a 30 per cent increase in 4G internet users by 2025 compared to 2020 as the base year. 

Mobile Usage: For what purposes?
With the advent of the Covid pandemic, many internet-led digital services have increased reliance on the smart phones in Pakistan, people have switched from basic cellular phones to smartphones. Smart phones have enabled financial inclusion, vloggers, social media influencers and up to date awareness about their country and the world. The mobile phone industry is mainly import led, with mobile handsets from Nokia being the most popular. In Pakistan, Mobile phones are used more as utility tools, be it for mobile alarms, or used as medium for business interactions, especially medium sector startups. 

Who are the mobile operators?
There is an indigenous mobile company in Pakistan called Qmobile which has forayed into the domestic market of India as well, being an affordable option for the larger middle class. After Nokia, Samsung is the most preferred brand by mobile phone consumers in Pakistan, followed by Qmobile, HTC and iPhone in decreasing order of preference. There is another rising brand called Infinix which is manufacturing mobile phones in Pakistan.

What is the mobile industry?
Foreign brands have started setting up manufacturing and assembly units in Pakistan, Vivo has set up manufacturing plants in Pakistan. Lucky Motors Pakistan has been authorized to set up a mobile manufacturing plant in Karachi and licensed to manufacture Samsung mobile phones. These initiatives will greatly increase the affordability and accessibility of smartphones in Pakistan, considering high regulatory duties imposed by government on imported mobile phones, such indigenous manufacturing will consequently rationalise average revenue per unit earned by government. Recently Inovi telecom exported 5,500 4G enabled smartphones to UAE, the first ever shipment of exported mobile phones from Pakistan. Complementing the domestic mobile industry are the domestic telecom operators, Jazz is the most popular operator opted by consumers in Pakistan, followed by Zong, Telenor and Ufone. Pakistan intends to become self-reliant in mobile phone production to ready itself for the 5G era and other Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) based applications accessible and affordable of advanced smartphones.

This emerging scenario is becoming more conducive due to the laying of Pakistan East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE), a cross border fiber cable to service countries participating in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As per a study by Ookla SpeedTest Index and analysis by Gallup Pakistan, Pakistan enjoys a better mobile internet speed over other South Asian counterparts. Pakistan is set to leap into the age of artificial intelligence with a population and a government that is increasingly adaptive to circumstances in geo-economics.

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