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. 


Riaz Haq said…
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.”
Riaz Haq said…
Edkasa launches mobile app to revolutionise on-demand learning in Pakistan

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.
Riaz Haq said…
Fortune at the bottom of the digital pyramid

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 – 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.
Riaz Haq said…
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.
Riaz Haq said…
Two trillion rupee stimulus revives #Pakistan's #economy. Rising foreign exchange reserves, improving current account balance & economic indicators such as #manufacturing, #cement, #automobiles and #FMCG, the economy is moving again toward higher growth

Top government officials, analysts and corporate leaders repose trust in the growing economy and said higher GDP growth in the five-to-six per cent per annum range is going to be a ‘new normal’ in the next five years considering strong economic indicators.

“Yes, we have a potential to grow at much higher rate in coming years. The State Bank of Pakistan [SBP] projects three per cent GDP growth in financial year 2020-21 and four per cent in 2021-22,” SBP governor Dr Reza Baqir told Khaleej Times during a recent event.

Newly-appointed Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said Pakistan will go for an ambitious six per cent economic growth target in the next two years as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows its willingness to renegotiate tough conditions for a $6 billion loan in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases.

“The federal government will earmark as much as Rs900 billion [$6 billion] for development expenditure in the year beginning July. That’s the bare minimum we need for a country this size,” he said.

Climbing the charts

The IMF has projected four per cent GDP growth for Pakistan during fiscal year 2021-22, which starts in July. Islamabad is expected to post a 1.5 per cent expansion during the current fiscal year ending on June 30 after a rare contraction of -0.4 per cent last year.

“We have strong economic indicators this year despite the Covid-19 pandemic challenges and this is a good omen for the economy. The government ensures more than Rs2 trillion stimulus to steer the economy out of Covid crisis by supporting the businesses through much-needed liquidity and funds distribution at grass root level,” Dr Baqir said.

Elaborating, the central bank governor said the SBP offered Rs450 billion liquidity under its Temporary Economic Refinance Facility to the private sector to absorb the Covid shock, while another Rs240 billion was provided as working capital to avoid layoffs and job losses.

“The central bank also offered a Rs900 billion cushion to banks to ensure relief to distress businesses in deferment and restructuring of principal payment and mark-up charges. These are some of the measures which helped the economy to bounce back quickly to meet global demand after the lockdown period,” Dr Baqir said.

Referring to rising foreign exchange reserves, an orderly rupee-dollar parity, improving current account balance and other economic indicators such as large-scale manufacturing, cement, automobiles and fast-moving consumer goods, the SBP governor said the economy is moving in the right direction and will perform better in coming years.

“Pakistan is one of the few countries that reduced its fiscal deficit despite the Covid challenge and global economic slowdown by reprioritising spending. The country’s public debt-to-GDP ratio has remained broadly stable last year while it has risen for most emerging markets due to Covid; this has improved the country’s creditworthiness,” he said.


High single-digit growth

Samiullah Tariq, head of research at Pakistan Kuwait Investment, said the country’s economy should grow at much higher rates to realise the true economic potential of the country.

“Pakistan is a nation of 220 million-plus people and every year new earners are now coming into the main stream. Renewable energy is providing everyone a sustainable and cheap energy making lives easier and production cheaper,” Tariq told Khaleej Times.

“IT, e-commerce, the Internet and cellular sectors have huge potential to drive economy into fast lane and achieve much higher GDP growth in next five years. High signle-digit growth is going to be a new normal in years to come,” he said.
Riaz Haq said…
#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

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.
Riaz Haq said…
#China #tech-giant Xiaomi to Set up Local #smartphone assembly unit in #Pakistan. Xiaomi is following the footsteps of other major brands like Tecno, Infinix & Realme which have recently opened their local #manufacturing units in Pakistan. #mobilephones

In a landmark development, the Chinese tech giant Xiaomi has announced that it will set up a local assembly unit in the country in three to four months, according to sources. The latest development will not only generate employment opportunities for the indigenous people but will also boost the local smartphone manufacturing space in the country. Furthermore, the local manufacturing of smartphones will also attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and ramp up a foreign exchange through exports.

Tech-giant Xiaomi to Set up Local Assembly Unit in Pakistan: Source
Basically, Xiaomi is following the footsteps of other major brands like Tecno, Infinix, Realme, etc. who have recently announced to open their local manufacturing unit in Pakistan. It will greatly benefit the company as Xiaomi is currently one of the most loved brands in Pakistan. It can be evident if we look at the sale of its recently launched devices like Mi 11, Note 10, etc. The primary reason behind its huge demand is that it renders quality, consumer-centric (gaming phones, camera phones, etc.), and affordable products.

Furthermore, as we know that Xiaomi deals in a range of accessories and IoT products. So if the company’s smartphone local assembly becomes a success story then the company will surely install other product manufacturing assemblies as well.

Currently, Pakistan is the 7th largest importer of mobile phones with a humungous market size of over 40 million users. Thus, consequently, local manufacturing will also save foreign exchange on mobile phone imports.
Riaz Haq said…
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.

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.
Riaz Haq said…
#Samsung starts producing mobile phones in Pakistan. #Pakistan imported #smartphones worth $644.673m in first 4 months (July-October) of 2021, up from $557.961m during the same period of last year, registering a growth of 15.54%. - DAWN.COM

KARACHI: One of the world’s largest manufacturers of mobile phones, Samsung, has finally started production in Pakistan, lifting hopes of the authorities and the industry that this would cut down the import bill of the country in the months to come.

The development came to light on Tuesday at a meeting of the company’s top managers with the Senators who visited the production site in line with the plan to receive a briefing on the growing new sector and challenges ahead for the cellphones manufacturing industry in Pakistan.

“We were informed that Samsung has formally started its production,” Faisal Subzwari, chairman of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Industries and Production, told Dawn.

He headed a delegation of members of the Senate panel which visited Samsung’s production unit and an auto manufacturing plant, and held a meeting with the management of Export Processing Zone.

The company aims to manufacture around 3m handsets every year

“It’s really good to know that the company has started production within a short span of four months,” Mr Subzwari said. “We visited the production facility which was designed on modern lines and obviously the local manpower, support of local industry and conducive environment provided by the government led to such achievement. But still I believe that we need to move forward from just growing in the assembling area to localisation of the industry.”

The country has witnessed robust growth in local production of cellular phones. During the first 10 months of this year, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) data says, the production of mobile phones by local manufacturing plants has almost doubled to 18.87 million against the import of mobile phones which stood at 45m.

However, despite the increase in local production of mobile phones, the import remained on a higher side. The PTA data says that mobile phones worth $644.673m were imported during the first four months (July-October) of 2021 compared to $557.961m during the same period of last year, registering a growth of 15.54 per cent.

The industry believes that it may take time to achieve the desired results but with the fresh start in an absolutely new industrial avenue, things have finally started moving in the right direction.

“With production of around 250,000 to 300,000, we aim to produce around 3m cellphones every year,” Mohammad Ali Tabba, chief of the Lucky Group which partners with Samsung to produce cellphones in Pakistan, told Dawn. “The whole production line is manual with no robotic assistance. So you can imagine how much workforce is required offering employment in this absolutely new area of engineering in Pakistan.”

He agreed that the country needed to move towards localisation from its current status of assembling industry and believed it was more the role of the industrial sector than the government to go for modification and compatibility.

“It’s not only the local production of cellphones but also a host of opportunities which it brings. From employment to investment and from export opportunities to local capacity building, it carries immense potential,” said Mr Tabba.

Riaz Haq said…
(UNICEF) report titled ‘COVID-19 and School Closures: One year of education disruption’ stated that amongst the south Asian countries, internet access is available to 74.6 per cent students in Sri Lanka, 69.7 per cent students in Bangladesh, 36.6 per cent in Nepal, 9.1 per cent in Pakistan, 8.5 per cent in India, and 0.9 per cent in Afghanistan.

The report stated that pandemic, lockdowns, and the subsequent closure of schools impacted 201 million students worldwide. Out of these, 170 million students had no access to education for the past one year.

Riaz Haq said…
How long does it take to earn the money to buy an Apple iPhone 12?

Based on minimum wage levels, a new report from estimates it would take 6,639 hours for a Venezuelan to earn enough for the prized smartphone and 3,254 hours for an Indian. Chinese people must work 680 hours to make enough money.

1642 Hours in Pakistan
1791 Hours in Indonesia
3254 Hours in India
2045 Hours in Egypt

Need-to-Know Research

Minimum Monthly Wage levels in selected countries:

Pakistan: $491

Nepal: $396

Vietnam: $388

China: $353

Afghanistan: $306

Sri Lanka: $247

India: $215

Solomon Islands: $213

Bangladesh: $48

Riaz Haq said…
According to details, SEA-ME-WE 6 cable will be live and ready for service by Q1 2025.

The Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 6 (SEA-ME-WE 6) is a 19,200 km-long submarine cable system connecting Pakistan with multiple countries between Singapore and France. SEA-ME-WE 6 will offer one of the lowest latencies available between Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe, transferring more than 100 Tbps, the equivalent of 40,000 high-definition videos each second.

The SEA-ME-WE 6 consortium includes Trans World Associates, Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (India) Dhiraagu (Maldives), Djibouti Telecom, Mobily (Saudi Arabia), Orange (France), Singtel (Singapore), Sri Lanka Telecom, Telecom Egypt, Telekom Malaysia and Telin (Indonesia).

Speaking on the occasion Mr. Kamran Malik, President of Transworld said:

“To meet ever increasing demand of bandwidth and to play a pivotal role in the forthcoming era of 5G, Transworld has joined the SEA-ME-WE 6 consortium, to build the latest state of the art high-capacity submarine cable system.”

SEA-ME-WE 6 will have more fibre pairs and more than double the capacity as compared to previous SEA-ME-WE cables.

SEA-ME-WE 6 provides an additional layer of diversity and resilience for the high traffic density route between Asia and Europe, strengthening the overall network of each consortium partner, through trans-Egypt’s new geo-diversified crossings and landing points.


The Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 6 (SEA-ME-WE 6) consortium announced today that construction has commenced on a 19,200 km-long submarine cable system connecting multiple countries between Singapore and France. SEA-ME-WE 6 will offer one of the lowest latencies available between Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe, transferring more than 100 terabytes per second, the equivalent of 40,000 high-definition videos each second.
The SEA-ME-WE 6 consortium includes Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (India) Dhiraagu (Maldives), Djibouti Telecom, Mobily (Saudi Arabia), Orange (France), Singtel (Singapore), Sri Lanka Telecom, Telecom Egypt, Telekom Malaysia, Telin (Indonesia), and Trans World Associates (Pakistan).

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan businessman hints at #iPhone plant in the country. Local #manufacturing could reduce import tariffs to make its best iPhones more affordable and accessible in the country. #Apple saves around 22% on import duties by making its phones in #India

Pakistan business leader Javed Afridi says he is in talks with Apple to bring an iPhone assembly plant to the country.

Afridi made the revelation on Twitter in response to a question from journalist Shiffa Yousafzai:

Afridi is best known as the owner of Pakistan's MG JW Automobile, and the CEO of Haier & Ruba. He is also the chairman and owner of Pakistani T20 cricket franchise Peshawar Zalmi. Haier is a leading Pakistani supplier of home appliances and tech including laptops and LED TVs.

The murmurings could be reminiscent of a similar deal Apple did in India in order to onshore iPhone assembly in the country there. Like India, iPhones and other Apple products sold in Pakistan are subject to high import tariffs if they aren't made locally, driving up the price.

If Apple was able to set up some form of manufacturing it could reduce the impact of these tariffs to make its best iPhones more affordable and accessible in the country. Apple saves around 22% on import duties by making its phones in India instead of importing them. It would also help Apple reduce its reliance on its supply chain in China, a weakness highlighted by the pandemic which saw heavy disruption to supply in the early part of 2020. Like India, Apple could also consider using phones made in Pakistan for export as well as the local market.

Apple announced its new iPhone SE earlier this week, featuring 5G and the A15 chip from the iPhone 13, a great budget option at just $429.

Riaz Haq said…
In Pakistan, Samsung’s local outsourcing contractor is Lucky Motors, which assembles KIA cars and is part of a large business conglomerate.

“It’s only in the last five to seven years that the smartphone business has mushroomed in developing countries like ours,” says Quentin D’Silva, the head of Lucky's smartphone division, adding that smartphone usage has surged in the country following the introduction of 3G and 4G cellular services in 2014.

A matter of training

When D’Silva was helping set up the assembly unit in Bin Qasim, a special economic zone on the fringes of Karachi, he and his team had to follow Samsung's strict guidelines to uphold its manufacturing standards.

“My production manager, who worked for Reckitt Benckiser, visited a Samsung facility in Indonesia and he tells me they run it like a pharmaceutical company,” where extreme hygiene and cleanliness standards are maintained, he says.

A smartphone like Samsung’s S22 comprises thousands of intricate components such as chipsets designed and manufactured at sophisticated facilities in South Korea and a handful of other countries.

Putting the components together is the relatively easy part. Workers can be trained over a few weeks to follow the SOPs of Apple or Samsung correctly. Motor skills and speed are built gradually over time.

A bigger challenge in a country like Pakistan was changing the mindset of the nearly 700 people the company employs, says D’Silva.

“I’m not going to oversimplify the assembly part. But the training starts off with the concept of quality,” he asserts.

Customer satisfaction is a top priority for the South Korean tech giant and that means workers need to make sure the finished product is packed neatly without even a bubble of air or a speck of dust on its wrapping, he notes.

Samsung started production in Pakistan late last year and between January and May, 2022, it produced 1.2 million smartphones, including the S22 Ultra, the latest in the series.

Depending on the model, it takes workers between 13 and 18 seconds to put together a Samsung phone as it moves along an assembly line, according to D’Silva

"Our production drops if, for instance, our workers go for lunch and are 10 minutes late. That’s where the discipline comes in.”

Moving beyond

Mobile phone assembly in Pakistan picked up its pace two years ago when the government increased taxes on smartphone imports. Simultaneously, the local industry was encouraged to import spare parts and assemble them domestically for the local market.

More recently, mobile phone imports have been banned as Islamabad tries to halt the rupee depreciation — one of the consequences of imports outweighing the revenue from exports.

Contract manufacturing generates employment and cuts down imports. But some local companies want to create brands and design their own products in the long run.

Premier Code says it’s investing approximately two to four percent of its revenue on research and development to gear up for the future.

“It’s not possible to localise production of all the components. Only a handful of companies make LCDs (the screens). Chipset manufacturing is primarily done in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the US and to a lesser extent in China,” says Muhammad Naqi, Premier Code’s CEO.

His company focuses on the design side of things, such as the layout of the printed circuit boards (PCBs), investing in proprietary software and the exterior look of the phones.

At the company’s factory, Dcode mobiles are subject to strict testing. Random samples are picked from each finished batch to undergo a durability test, which includes dropping spherical metal balls onto the phone’s screen and then dropping the device on the marble floor.

Naqi says his company is not a contract manufacturer. “We want to develop our own brand and products at the same time” — even if the components are shipped from elsewhere.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani companies have been building PCBs — the green-coloured boards on which chips and resistors are mounted — for years for appliances such as televisions and air conditioners.

“But you need to understand that their layout is really big. When it comes to smartphones, it's a very small layout, which requires precision engineering. Our machines are not able to do that,” says Naqi.

High-tech machines used for making PCBs for mobile phones will mean higher capital costs and a thin factory workforce — undermining a vital goal of the government's policy, which is to create employment.

Nevertheless, a few tech companies are trying to challenge that view. One of them is located not far from Premier Code’s facility.

All about small steps

Elite Lighting manufactures parts for LED lights. Their products are nowhere close to the technologically advanced components that smartphone manufacturing requires.

But Yousuf Farooq, a young director at the company, has big dreams.

“Pakistan imports 100 million LED lights annually. It’s a huge market that we can capture,” he says.

Founded in November 2020, the company designs and fabricates PCBs for things like LED lights, watches and circuits that go into petrol pump dispensers.

“People were importing LED parts and putting them together here. We said, “Why don’t we build them here?”

At his 50-employee factory, workers place blue and black cylindrical components on the PCBs and solder them together. Known as ‘through-hole components’ such as resistors and capacitors, they are mostly imported from China.

But Farooq says his company can make them locally as the company grows and more orders come in.

“We started off by placing 9,000 components an hour on the PCBs. Now we can place 25,000 components. Almost all our workers were unskilled. We trained them over a period of 6 months.”

The Pakistani rupee’s depreciation, which has involved a 30 percent loss against the US dollar since July 2021, has made it feasible for local manufacturers to compete with importers.

LED light sellers pay their Chinese suppliers 60 to 90 days before the shipments arrive, says Farooq.

“Imagine if we can deliver the same product in 15 days and we deal in cash. So what has happened is that it improves the cash cycle of our customers.”

“Our customer can also just walk into my office and talk to me if something goes wrong. He doesn’t have to worry about learning Chinese,” he chuckles.

Rising wages in China have also made local manufacturers competitive. On average, Lucky and Premier pay between Rs30,00 and Rs35,000 (around $165) a month to their workers.

But the nascent industry is already facing a crisis. In recent weeks, banks have refused to extend credit which companies need to import components. That’s because of the fast-depleting foreign currency reserves that Islamabad is trying to preserve.

Lucky Motors, Samsung’s contract assembler, hasn’t been able to manufacture a single phone in almost a month.

“To say that Samsung people are upset is going to be an understatement,” says D’Silva, the CEO.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s Mobile Imports Decline by 4% to $1.9 Billion in FY22

Pakistan imported mobile phones worth $1.978 billion during the fiscal year 2021–22 compared to $2.065 billion during the same period last year, registering a negative growth of 4.19 percent, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

The overall telecom imports into the country during the period under review, i.e., fiscal year 2021–22, increased by 3.52 percent by going up from $2.593 billion in June–July 2020–21 to $2.684 billion during the same period last year.

On a month-on-month basis, imports of mobile phones into Pakistan decreased by 76.52 percent during June 2022 and stood at $32.221 million when compared to $137.213 million imported in May 2022, according to the PBS data.

Furthermore, on a year-on-year basis, mobile phones witnessed an 84.26 percent negative growth when compared to $204.677 million in June 2021.

On a month-on-month basis, the overall telecom imports into the country decreased by 52.80 percent during June 2022 and stood at $86.843 million, when compared to the imports of $183.985 million in May 2022.

Likewise, on a year-on-year basis, overall telecom imports witnessed 66.11 percent negative growth when compared to $256.255 million in June 2021. Other apparatus imports during July-June 2021-22 increased by 33.65 percent and stood at $705.945 million compared to $528.190 million in July-June 2020-21.

Other apparatus imports registered 16.78 percent growth on a month-on-month basis and stood at $54.622 million in June 2022 compared to $46.772 million in May 2022 and registered 5.90 percent growth when compared to $51.578 million in June 2022.
Riaz Haq said…
PTA confirms 14 Million mobile phones manufactured locally during Jan-Jun 2022

According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, 14.08 million mobile phones manufactured during the first six months (January-June) of 2022, compared to 1.14 million imported commercially (PTA).

In June 2022, local manufacturing plants produced/assembled 1.67 million mobile phone devices. Local manufacturing facilities produced 24.66 million mobile phone handsets in calendar year 2021, up from 13.05 million in 2020, representing an 88 percent increase. According to PTA data, commercial imports of mobile phone handsets rose at 10.26 million in 2021, up from 24.51 million in 2020.

The 14.08 million mobile phones manufactured/assembled domestically include 8.06 million 2G and 6.02 million smartphones. According to PTA data, 54 percent of mobile devices in Pakistan are smartphones, while 46 percent are 2G.Overall telecom imports into the country surged by 3.52 percent over the time under evaluation, from $2.593 billion in July-June 2020-21 to $2.684 billion during the same period last year.

The effective implementation of the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS), in conjunction with supportive government regulations, such as the mobile manufacturing policy, has provided a favorable climate for mobile device manufacture in Pakistan.

It has also benefited Pakistan’s mobile ecosystem by minimizing the bogus device market, creating a fair playing field for commercial organizations, and building consumer trust through the development of standardized legal routes for all types of device imports.
Riaz Haq said…
Telenor Pakistan is Reportedly Up for Grabs

Telenor is moving forward with its plans of selling its business in Pakistan, which is estimated at about $1 billion, reported Bloomberg today.

The Norwegian telecom giant in collaboration with the city Citigroup will invite bidders for the sale later this month, the sources disclosed to Bloomberg.

While we know that Telenor Pakistan is up for grabs for several years now, the challenge for the Norwegian operator is to find a viable deal, that could make business sense for the group and the shareholders.

We know that PTCL was in advanced talks with Telenor, but the outcome is yet to be seen. If Bloomberg is to be believed, then the development has taken its final shape at this point in time.

More recently the head of Telenor Group reaffirmed the plans for realignment of Asian operations, and it appears today’s Bloomberg report is around the same development.

ProPakistani reached out to Telenor Pakistan for the comment but it resorted to not to respond to speculations and rumors.

Back in July, Telenor had claimed that it would carry out a strategic review of its operations in Pakistan after spending $244 million in a struggling economy.

Bloomberg, without specifically mentioning anyone, said that entities based in the Middle East and Asia that are already working in Pakistan are expected to turn up in the bidding process later this month.

Talks are going on and the Norwegian telecom company is hopeful that they will lead to fruition.

Riaz Haq said…
5G technology to be launched next year

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is likely to launch 5G technology next year in the country to cope with the challenges of the digital world. The official of ministry of IT and telecommunication said that the provision of broadband services across the country was the topmost priority of the ministry of IT. He said that the ministry of IT through the Universal Service Fund (USF) had launched some 70 projects of optical fiber cable (OFC) and broadband infrastructure development in four provinces at a cost of Rs 65 billion. “All projects are underway in far-flung areas would be completed by June next year,” he added. “In the province of Sindh alone, 20 projects of NGBSD and OFC worth Rs16.3 billion have been started so far in 20 districts, including Tharparkar, Nawabshah, Khairpur, Larkana, Badin, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Mirpurkhas, and Dadu,” the official said. He said that projects of connectivity of the un-served and underserved communities of Balochistan, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces had also been launched. He said, through USF aimed to connect all the citizens of the country as digitalisation had become a priority for businesses and communities. Under its Next Generation Optic Fiber (NG-OF) Network and Services programme, USF had contracted over 16,000km of Optic Fiber Cable (OFC) to benefit 31.5 million populations across the country.
Riaz Haq said…
Jazz and Huawei Successfully Accomplished Nationwide Rollout for FDD Massive MIMO in Pakistan

Jazz and Huawei have commercially deployed FDD (Frequency Division Duplexing) Massive MIMO (Multiple Input and Multiple Output) solution based on 5G technology in a large scale. The solution has been developed and tailored to the needs of boosting network capacity and user experience.
This customized solution has been the first launch of Jazz and Huawei, supporting Jazz leap into the 4.9G domain. This innovative solution has tremendously enhanced the network capacities along with superior 4G experience for the valued subscribers. The average network traffic increased by around 30% and the average single user speed increased by around 170%.

Jazz’s Chief Technology Officer, Khalid Shehzad said, “We see that our customers are increasingly using high-bandwidth applications which resultantly puts pressure on existing network capabilities. Massive MIMO essentially allows us the freedom to provide more data at greater speeds, enabling our customers to use the enhanced services on their existing 4G devices. Network speeds will be faster than ever, which will significantly improve the end-user experience. Jazz is committed to developing an ecosystem that supports the government’s Digital Pakistan vision and the evolving technology needs of individuals and businesses.”

Huawei provides the industry's unique intelligent beam scheduling and intelligent beamforming technology which are native for 5G. Massive MIMO improves the capability of the handsets to transmit more efficiently. Currently Huawei FDD Massive MIMO has been deployed in more than 70 networks and over 20,000 units have been shipped. The level of collaboration between Jazz and Huawei goes beyond to more domains. For example, the first 400G transmission, the first core network cloudification, the first large-scale commercial use of VoLTE, and the first 3G sunset city. In Pakistan, Jazz maintains a leading position in network performance and innovations, and it leads the development of the entire ICT industry.
Riaz Haq said…
Pak Optical Fiber Cable Project inked between Chinese Companies

A Nationwide Optical Fiber Cable Network Project has been signed between PowerChina and Hunan Sunwalk Group, according to Gwadar Pro on Friday.

Phase 1, Lot 1 of the said project will aim to improve Pakistan’s telecommunication infrastructure for better interconnection with its neighboring countries.

Talking to Gwadar Pro, business manager Sunwalk Group said that the company plans to spend several billion dollars on Pakistan’s Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities to establish telecom infrastructure and fiber industry.

The nation’s broadband adoption will be increased for the digital revolution, which will benefit not only the business-to-business sector but also the government, enterprise firms, and end consumers, the official added.

Previously, Sunwalk Group CEO Pakistan, Lan held a meeting with Federal Minister of IT and Telecom, Syed Amin ul Haque. Lan informed the Minister regarding investment plans for establishing a statewide optical fiber network and facilitating the growth of broadband in Pakistan.

He stated that his organization is prepared to invest approximately $2 billion over the next 8 to 10 years.

Riaz Haq said…
Here is How Much Internet Pakistanis Consumed in 2022

Every Pakistani broadband user consumed 81 GB of data in FY22, which showed double-digit growth of 11 percent as compared to the average yearly internet consumption which stood at 73 GB per person in FY21.

During the period under review, 8,970 petabytes of mobile data usage was reported in Pakistan, indicating a 31 percent increase from the previous year. Five years ago, mobile data usage in the country stood at 1,262 petabytes.

Riaz Haq said…
#Starlink #Satellite #Broadband is Now Officially Registered in #Pakistan. It could potentially revolutionize Pakistan’s #telecommunications industry by providing faster and more affordable internet services, even in remote areas.

In a significant development for Pakistan’s IT and Telecommunication sector, Director of Global Licensing and Market Activation at SpaceX, Ryan Goodnight, called on the Federal Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haq, to discuss the registration of SpaceX’s Starlink in Pakist

According to the Minister, Starlink has registered itself with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

The meeting was aimed at exploring how Starlink’s fastest and cheapest satellite internet services could pave the way for affordable broadband services in every corner of Pakistan.

The Minister expressed his optimism that Starlink’s services could significantly reduce the operational costs of telecom operators, even in remote areas where inactive mobile towers could be activated at low cost.

“Our main objective is to provide broadband services to every corner of Pakistan at affordable tariffs,” said the Minister, adding, “Starlink can play an important role in this regard.”

Ryan Goodnight thanked the Minister for his full cooperation and appreciated Pakistan’s progress in the IT and Telecommunication sector. “Basic steps are complete, and now we are ready to go fast,” Ryan added.

This development could potentially revolutionize Pakistan’s telecommunications industry by providing faster and more affordable internet services, even in remote areas. The successful implementation of Starlink’s services in Pakistan could be a significant step towards achieving the goal of a connected Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Super Fast Gigabit Fiber Internet is Coming to 11 Cities in Pakistan Soon

Pakistan is about to get ultra-fast gigabit fiber internet in eleven cities soon, as per government documents available with ProPakistani.

This document highlights the Public Sector Development Project (PDSP) budget during the period of 2022-2024. It includes a summary of current ongoing projects, future projects, and more under the Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives.

Under the Information Technology and Telecom Division, it highlights a new scheme for a project that will expand Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) Fiber to the Home (FTTH) services to eleven cities.

In simpler words, super fast gigabit internet is coming to more cities soon, as mentioned earlier. The project’s approval status is still “under process”, so it will probably be a while before it sees the light of day.

The government has approved a cost of Rs. 800 million and there is no foreign aid on this particular project. An additional Rs. 50 million will be allocated to this project during the course of 2023-2024.

Other Development Projects
The IT section of the document also highlights dozens of other projects the govt is working on at the moment, such as 4 more knowledge parks, a technology park development project, an online recruitment system for FPSC, smart offices for Federal Ministries and Departments, expansion of broadband services in Kashmir and Gilgit, and much more.

Riaz Haq said…
The number of 3G/4G subscribers in Pakistan has shown a year-on-year growth of 9%. In May 2023, the total number of subscribers reached 124.1 million, compared to 113.9 million in May 2022. There has been a slight decline of 0.7 million subscribers during the months of April and May 2023. Moreover, the factor behind decrease/decline can be attributed to the implementation of Multi Finger Biometric Verification System (MBVS). Fraudulent/artificial sale activation of SIM cards has largely stopped.

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