Pakistan Rolling Out 50 Mbps Broadband Service
Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), the nation’s state-controlled phone company, is deploying VDSL2 Bonding technology to provide existing digital subscriber line (DSL) customers with speeds up to 50 Mbps. The project leverages Alcatel-Lucent’s VDSL2 Bonding expertise and will be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2011, according to a report in Daily Times.
VDSL2 technology is a good cost-effective option for Pakistan to upgrade existing DSL because it could serve as a platform to deliver broadband, video, and phone service, much like AT&T’s U-verse known as triple-play. VDSL2 Bonding takes two copper-based VDSL2 lines per subscriber and aggregates them—almost doubling the bandwidths available to existing customers, or expanding high-speed broadband access to areas that are underserved today.
PTCL selected VDSL2 over fiber to the home (FTTH) primarily because of cost. With fiber installs twice as expensive as a DSL upgrade, a developing country like Pakistan couldn’t justify the higher price. VDSL is expected to be an important part of broadband expansion in the developing world, particularly in Africa, southeastern Europe, and central Asia. Longer term, Pakistan is building Fiber To The Home (FTTH) network for much higher bandwidths, and several thousand homes have already been wired with fiber as a pilot roll-out in Islamabad by a Pakistani Internet service provider (ISP) called Nayatel.
With just over a million broadband subscribers as of October 2010, Pakistan’s broadband subscriber base is small. But it is in the midst of explosive growth with an increase of 63.5% from the 643,892 in December 2009. While the DSL remains the main technology used to access broadband services in the country, alternative wireless solutions WiMAX and EV-DO are catching up fast. The number of DSL users grew by 96.5% from 262,661 in June 2009, according to Business Monitor International (BMI). By contrast, subscriber figures of WiMAX and EV-DO increased by 246.6% and 708.5% over the same period to reach 306,665 and 181,947 respectively. The popularity of mobile broadband services is likely due to more affordable pricing plans bundled with low-cost mobile devices. Moreover, two-thirds of the population reside in rural areas where fixed-line infrastructure remains poor and wireless broadband service therefore becomes an attractive and relatively cheaper method to bring connectivity to the underserved regions.
At current pricing, PTCL offers a basic broadband service package with a 256kbps connection limited to 1GB of data for Rs. 299 ($3.50) a month. This low-cost package is designed for users interested in email and light browsing, not heavy downloads and uploads.
The next level is the popular 2Mbps unlimited package for around Rs. 1499 ($17.78) a month. And then there is 10Mbps service for an expensive Rs. 8500 ($100) a month. With the upgrades, PTCL can either raise speeds, reduce prices, or a combination of both. Other than the 256kbps service, all other broadband packages from the company offer unlimited use.
Considering all the massive negative propaganda in the Indian and western media about Pakistan, it is interesting to see that some Americans are noticing the high-speed access build-out in the "failed state" of Pakistan by a state-owned telephone company.
In a provocatively titled post "Osama bin Laden Getting Faster Internet Than You Have: Pakistan’s 50Mbps Future", an American blogger Philip Dampier complains as follows: "While America’s heartland is being wired for 3Mbps DSL service, residents in Pakistan are getting ready for speeds up to 50Mbps thanks to a major broadband expansion in the country".
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