Pakistan's Telecom Boom Continues
The number of cellular subscribers in Pakistan has crossed 76m in Dec, 2007, from 500,000 in 2004. According to Business Recorder, Pakistan's financial daily, most forecasters believe that the upward trend will continue in the next 5 years because of the huge market potential, particularly in the rural areas where the build-out has yet to happen. Opreators such as Wateen (with Motorola) are planning a large Wimax roll-out to improve voice and high bandwidth data access across the country. The biggest mobile operators in Pakistan include Mobilink with 30m subscribers, Ufone with 16m, Telenor with 14m, Warid with 13m and Paktel with 1m.
It must be noted that FDI is different from stock market investments. FDI money goes to build factories, infrastructure and facilities rather than the purchase of financial assets such as stocks and bonds by mutual funds.
According to Pakistan's Daily Times, Pakistan’ telecom boom has created more than 300,000 jobs in the telecom sector. This has resulted in huge demand for professional and capable telecom workforce that can expertly meet the new age requirements of these positions. Creative public private partnerships are being established to meet this demand.
Thanks to Pakistanis' rising incomes, which have more than doubled to over US$900 per year in the last seven years, and increased competition, the teledensity rate is expected to go over 50 percent in the next couple of years, according to officials and analysts. Opportunities such as these are fueling the continuing growth in the middle class which further enhances the ongoing consumer boom. By various estimates, the Pakistani middle class has now grown to over 30m people, about 20% of the total population. The size of this middle class makes Pakistan an attractive opportunity for investors, in spite of the continuing political uncertainty with the approaching elections in February, 2008. Analysts such as Merrill Lynch's Chief Market strategist Mark Matthews are very bullish on Pakistan. Matthews has called Pakistan a "safe haven" for investors as recently as Jan 6, 2008 in an interview with CNBC.