Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mobile Internet For Pakistan

With the personal computers and the Internet penetration in Pakistan in single digit percentages and the mobile phone penetration approaching 50%, should Pakistanis still aspire primarily for the Western style PC/Internet access model? The answer to this question is clearly a resounding NO. Here is an opportunity for a strategic leapfrog to ubiquitous Internet connectivity via the most prevalent device owned by the largest number of people--the mobile phone. It makes sense from many perspectives: Device cost, connectivity options, electricity availability, usefulness for the vast majority of people, etc. It seems that the Japanese have already been pursuing the mobile connectivity model with widespread voice and data connectivity through the cell phones, popularity of text messaging, use of cell phone as a gaming/entertainment and payment platform.
While the efforts such as OLPC (One laptop per child) for developing nations including Pakistan are laudable, a similar or even greater focus on robust mobile phones is likely to be a faster and cheaper method to accomplish the OLPC program goals. There is no reason why these robust mobile devices could not be used to help students in their academic pursuits. With new capabilities in mobile phones such as voice recognition, speech-to-text, real time audio, video, and translation, students learning can be enhanced at the same time as higher business productivity
is realized for an increasingly mobile workforce in Pakistan, India, and the rest of the developing world.
The policy makers and planners should initiate public-private partnerships to make mobile Internet a reality in Pakistan. The government should work with the mobile phone companies such as Mobilink and Motorola as well as the Internet giants such as Cisco, Google and Microsoft to ensure that the widespread mobile phones in Pakistan are leveraged to improve education and business productivity.

11 comments:

henmen said...

It makes much more sense to cash in on existing infrastructure than invest in resources that take much more money and time. I personally find the idea of getting a computer to everyone not feasible. Why not build upon a technology (cellular phones) people are already familiar and comfortable with.

Riaz Haq said...

I agree. However, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)should still continue. While the majority of the people would rely on cell phones as regular users, the process of creation and publishing would still require higher processing power and larger screens etc. Both of these should be addressed.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Telecom Report by Budde.com


Over the 2002-2009 period, the number of mobile subscribers rocketed from less than 2 million to more than 94 million (58% penetration). The 2006-2007 period in particular had been remarkable for the country’s mobile operators as the total subscriber base moved from 22 million at the beginning of 2006 to 77 million at end-2007. By early 2008, the 50% penetration milestone had been reached, probably much faster than most people expected. Despite a tightening national economy, coming into 2009 the mobile market continued to expand at an annual rate in excess of 10%.

By 2009, however, Internet penetration remained low and broadband growth had also been negligible. There was some good news on this front when the year 2008 saw an upsurge in broadband subscriptions; importantly, this looked to be continuing in 2009, boosted by the spread of competition throughout the market. DSL subscriptions were dominating the broadband market, quite overshadowing the cable modem broadband services provided using HFC infrastructure.

In the meantime, early signs of wireless-based broadband Internet technologies had begun to appear and by 2008 there were a number of WiMAX networks being rolled out in the larger urban centres. For the time being, however, the number of wireless broadband subscribers remains relatively small.

The big challenge in the short term for Pakistan’s telecom market will be to manage the impact of a pronounced downturn in the national economy. The 2008/09 fiscal year saw a huge dip in FDI as foreign investment in the country suffered a significant overall reduction. In the longer term the ongoing task of regulatory reform will be the major challenge.

Key highlights
• Despite a faltering economy and speculation that the mobile market was saturating, Pakistan still managed to grow its mobile subscriber numbers in 2009, reaching 94 million subscribers (almost 60% penetration) by June 2009.
• Growth in mobile subscribers was continuing at an annual rate of about 12% in 2009, modest compared with previous years, yet still representing healthy growth in the circumstances.
• Pakistan’s mobile sector has been boosted by increased competition, with newcomers Warid Telecom and Telenor (both launched in 2005) having quickly claimed big stakes in the market. By mid-2009, their combined market share had reached just over 41%.
• Broadband Internet penetration remains low in Pakistan (around 0.2% in early 2009) but 2008/09 had witnessed a strong surge in demand for broadband services that looked set to continue.
• Growth in the country’s fixed-line market remained sluggish; fixed teledensity stood at less than 4% by end-2008 with the numbers expected to only edge up slightly in the short term.
• One positive factor in the emerging fixed market has been the success of WLL technology which was supporting around 35% of all fixed subscribers by early 2009.

Pakistan – Key telecom parameters – 2008 - 2009
Category 2008 2009 (e)
Fixed-line services:
• Total subscribers (million) 6.2 6.5
• Annual growth -7% 5%
• Fixed-line penetration (population) 3.8% 4.0%
• Fixed-line penetration (household) 23% 23%
Internet:
• Total subscribers (million) 3.7 4.0
• Annual growth 6% 8%
• Internet subscriber penetration (population) 2% 2%
Mobile services:
• Total subscribers (million) 90.0 99.0
• Annual growth 17% 10%
• Mobile penetration (population) 56% 60%
(Source: BuddeComm)

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Business Monitor Inc (BMI) forecast for Pakistan's telecom services:

The number of mobile subscribers in Pakistan reached the 100mn mark in September 2010 and is expected to continue its growth momentum due to the relatively low penetration rate. In this quarter, BMI has adjusted our mobile forecasts and we forecast 136.078mn subscribers in Pakistan by end-2015, representing a penetration rate of 70.3%.
We could see the launch of commercial 3G services in 2011 after the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority announced plans to submit its proposal to the government. We will revisit our forecasts for the number of 3G and mobile subscribers in the country when the plan is successfully implemented and details of the licence are revealed.
Pakistan’s broadband subscriber base reached 1.053mn in October 2010, an increase of 63.5% from the 643,892 in December 2009. While DSL remained 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. 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.
Pakistan continued its decline on BMI’s Business Environment Ratings for the Asia-Pacific region. Although the country scored relatively well on the Industry Rewards and Risks segment, we note the country faces significant downside pressure on the macroeconomic front. While we upgraded the country’s headline growth forecast figure to 1.5% for FY2010/11 (July-June), we remain cautious as industrial activity continues to contract and rising lending rates hold back activity. Over the medium term, the country' s economic prospects remain bleak as the lack of domestic resources hampers recovery and reconstruction. Moreover, the country is at risk of experiencing years of instability and militant activity. Pakistan fell to 11th position from 10th position in BMI’s latest Business Environment Ratings in Q111 due to a decrease in the country’s Industry Rewards score, which dropped to 55.0 from 60.0 in the previous quarter. BMI’s own damage assessment suggests that the country will struggle to generate any meaningful real GDP growth in FY10/11 (July-June). Even after the clean-up operations are complete, we are unlikely to witness a return to the days of plus-5% economic growth (last seen between 2002 and 2007), as the government' s poor fiscal health and a protracted internal struggle against extremist elements weigh heavily on private sector demand. We believe that Pakistan' s business environment will remain highly challenging, with the shaky security situation and a dire energy shortage continuing to weigh on economic activity, particularly much-needed investment.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a UKPA story of a Pakistani innovators harnessing the Internet for the poor:

One of the world's top young technology innovators is working to bring internet-style networking to millions of Pakistanis who don't have access to the web.

Umar Saif's efforts, which centre around giving ordinary citizens new ways to use a basic mobile phone, recently earned him recognition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The trigger for his research was a 2005 earthquake in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir that killed 80,000 people and caused widespread destruction. The disaster coincided with his return to Pakistan after getting a PhD in computer science from the University of Cambridge.

Realising that rescue workers were having trouble co-ordinating, Saif, 32, devised a computer program that allowed people to send a text message - or SMS - to thousands of people at once. Users send a text to a specific phone number to sign up for the program, and then can message all the subscribers, allowing users to engage in the kind of social networking possible on the internet.

It has since blossomed into a commercial enterprise called SMS-all that is used by at least 2.5 million people who have sent nearly four billion text messages.

"You can do the sorts of things that we do on Facebook and Twitter," said Saif, now an associate professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

The company generates revenue by charging a small amount for each message. Saif has expanded the service to Iraq and Nigeria by working with telecommunication companies there.

Roughly 20 million Pakistanis use the internet, about 11% of the country's total population of 187 million. But there are more than 108 million Pakistani mobile phone subscribers.

"The thing to do is to bring whatever you have on the internet on the phone lines, because that is what gets used the most," said Saif.


http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5gGB71MuxyPPnNQBdZ4xMfvksHuxA?docId=N0201411315222132958A

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Bloomberg story on Qualcomm's plans for sub-$100 smartphone for the Indian market:

Last month, Chinese handset makers Huawei and ZTE unveiled Android phones powered by Qualcomm chips for about $100. That’s not yet low enough for Indian operators, though. “The big threshold will happen at $50 to $60,” says Sanjay Kapoor, CEO for South Asia at Bharti Airtel. “At that price, then an explosion of the market can happen.”

To get there, Jacobs has made changes at Qualcomm. In the late 2000s the company lost a step to Taiwanese rival MediaTek, which made a splash in 2G phones by working closely with cheap, no-name producers in China that had little experience making handsets. MediaTek didn’t just sell them its chips; it taught its customers how to produce handsets. Jacobs says Qualcomm tried to keep its distance from what he calls this “swarm of ants” strategy, but MediaTek’s success made Qualcomm realize it had to adapt. Now the American company has started offering reference designs of its own to companies that work on 3G phones. “We learned you need to give the complete design, soup to nuts,” says Jacobs.

That new approach is helping companies such as Micromax, one of India’s leading local brands, take aim at the $100 smartphone barrier. Micromax once needed up to 12 months to come out with a phone, says Vikas Jain, business director and co-founder of the company. Now it needs only four, he says. Qualcomm’s expertise is also helping Micromax reduce its use of components from other companies, Jain adds, thus cutting by 30 percent its bill of materials for new devices. The company’s cheapest smartphone now costs $175, but Jain expects a $100 handset within six months. “Once we are able to reach these price points,” he says, “we are very sure about the mass adoption of smartphones in India.”

For most Indians right now, though, the smartphone “is not a device that you must have,” says Lennard Hoornik, president of South Asia for Taiwan-based smartphone maker HTC. The $100 challenge, he says, misses the point. For Indians to buy smartphones en masse, they need to have lots of apps in Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, and other Indian languages. “There aren’t enough local apps that make people feel, ‘I have to have this.’ ”
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Meanwhile, Qualcomm is looking further ahead. Although 3G is only getting off the ground in India, the government last year auctioned off spectrum for the next generation of high-speed mobile service. To ensure operators go with the Qualcomm-backed standard, called Long Term Evolution, rather than the alternative WiMAX technology backed by Intel (INTC), Qualcomm spent $1 billion to buy spectrum. The plan is to sell it to operators and help them launch LTE networks. The move, which Jacobs calls “a surgical strike,” not only outflanked Intel, it also helped drive operators in other countries to the LTE camp, says Shiv Putcha, an India telecom analyst with London-based research firm Ovum. He points to moves by Clearwire (CLWR) in the U.S. and Yota in Russia to adopt LTE as signs that Jacobs’s strategy has paid off. “Qualcomm coming in and pushing LTE really shut the door” on Intel, he says. “All of these technologies are going to coexist,” says Aicha Evans, general manager of Intel’s Mobile Wireless Group. “The users don’t really care what is below the hood.”

For the next few years, though, the real action in India will be in 3G networks. Back in the Palika Bazaar, salesman Khan is waiting for a cheap smartphone that might interest some of his customers. A $40 made-in-China clone won’t provide the sort of online experience you can get from real smartphones, but there’s no beating the price. “For a common man,” says Khan, “I’m not sure there’s a better deal.”


http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/qualcomm-rewires-for-india-09082011.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story for PTA's case for 3G auction:

While the expert stressed on developing content for 3G, PTA argued launching the spectrum will automatically lead to content development.

“Demand for data is increasing and the availability of infrastructure (3G) will enhance usage of data services and improve the content development, which will make business case for a new player,” PTA’s chairman Mohammed Yaseen said.

The PTA chief also said it was a misconception that the average revenue per user (ARPU) is low in Pakistan. “The ARPU of voice services for 2G should be relevant to economies of scale,” he said, adding, “3G enhances ARPU in any case. There are case studies of developing countries where introduction of 3G increases the ARPUs of operators like in Egypt.”

Pakistanis, Yaseen said, are already using 17 million smart phones. The import and adoption of smart phones is very high and is increasing every year while more people are using tablets, he said. The use of these devices is not expected to decrease by any chance, which means appetite for “wireless high speed internet on move” will also increase; he said.

Additionally, Yaseen said, there are consumers who want to use data services on their handsets. However, they have either not subscribed to it or subscribed to it but don’t use it because of low speed and freezing of the operating system – Last year’s BBM outages frustrated the users for example.

Personal Computer (PC) internet usage is stagnant for the last three years due to cost of PC, he said. However, the internet usage by mobile phones is increasing exponentially, he said, presently 13 million people are using mobile internet. “It shows the growth potential of mobile phone internet usage,” he added.

Presently the data contributions to the ARPU range from 12% to 17% as calculated by PTA, he said.

The experts have also argued the base price – $210 million – is high. The base price, PTA chief said, was calculated keeping in view various factors and international best practices and was smaller than some markets of smaller economies where 3G was auctioned.

Whether or not a new player should enter the market is debatable. The existing players, however, seem to be gearing up for the much delayed auction. Mobilink, Ufone and Zong have confirmed their participation and even upgraded their telecom hardware to 3G.

Despite the global economic recession, there is an enabling environment for cellular business in Pakistan; Mobilink president Rashid Khan said. Referring to the base price for 3G auction, he added, it was reasonable and determined on the basis of telecom policy.

Ufone will be the first to compete for a 3G license in Pakistan; said Walid Irshaid who is the CEO and President of PTCL – parent company of Ufone. “We have no option but to succeed,” he said. It is going to be really difficult for the 2G “leftover” operators in the post-3G environment, Irshad said, because high revenue-generating subscribers would switch over to 3G networks.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/352827/feasibility-pta-makes-a-business-case-for-3g-spectrum-in-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Telenor to help empower new digital generation in Pakistan, reports Daily Times:

LAHORE: Telenor Pakistan has launched a nationwide project that would help empower a new digital generation in Pakistan.

Telenor Talkshawk I-Champ is a knowledge-based initiative that aims to provide learning and training to young people to enable them to become future proponents in the digital age. Telenor will partner with Government of the Punjab and hold Internet workshops for class 8-10 students in 150 schools in the semi-urban and rural areas of Punjab. To mark the initiative, a launch event was held at Children’s Library Complex, which was attended by a large number of school children, their parents and teachers.

Deputy Speaker Punjab Assembly, Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan said government of the Punjab was committed to providing its citizens with quality education. The students were briefed on how the Internet works and how information can be searched for on internet-enabled mobile phones.

Acting Chief Marketing Officer Telenor Pakistan, Usman Javed said, “We are delighted to be partnering with the Government of Punjab to start promoting digital awareness among the youth of the province”. The winner of the Telenor Talkshawk I-Champ final competition will get to visit Opera Labs in Norway to learn more about how the Internet is being used by people around the world to share knowledge.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\05\13\story_13-5-2012_pg5_11

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Huawei launching smartphones in Pakistan:

Huawei, a leading player in telecommunication is all set to launch 5 touch screen Android mobile phones in Pakistani market on July 16 in Lahore. The models are expected to be Ascend P1, U8860 Honor, U8850 Vision, Ascend G300, Ascend Y200.

Huawei has long been present in Pakistan providing network solutions to cellular operators. Although it has floated lower price handsets as a part of bundle offers in association with the leading cellular operators in Pakistan but this is the first official launch of Huawei’s smartphones in the local market. We cannot rule out the possibility of making available these smartphones as a bundle offer through cellular operators as being one of the largest network equipment provider in the world Huawei already has strong ties with the cellular operators.

Ascend P1 is the finest among all 5 having 7.7 mm thin body, Quad-band GSM and penta-band 3G with HSPA support, 4.3″ 16M-color capacitive Super AMOLED touchscreen, latest stable flavor Android OS v4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Dual-core 1.5GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 8 MP autofocus camera with LED flash, Standard 3.5 mm audio jack; Dolby Mobile 3.0+, SNS integration and everything else that what Android offers.

A little lower in price is U8860 Honor that is 11 mm in total and offers TFT capacitive touchscreen of 4.0 inches and 480 x 854 pixels of display, 1 GB storage, 512 MB RAM, 4 GB ROM, Qualcomm 1.4 GHz Scorpion, Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread), 8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, SNS integration and much more.

With Huawei joining the scene, it will be a good sign for the local market where Samsung leads the smartphone category (thanks to Galaxy series) followed by HTC offering a wide range of smartphones.

As Nokia no more considered to be a challenge soon in the future and particularly after the fall of MegaGate, Q Mobile appears to be a third contender for a pie in the local Android market which is getting charged up with low priced Android based mobilephones.

Market analysts believe that Huawei with huge funds and better R&D will be a much better competitor for Samsung and HTC. It may knock out QMobile in the first round provided the distribution and sales network perform as per expectation. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see how market reacts to this new entrant.

We have heard that expected price range of Huawei’ upcoming smartphones is PKR. 9,500 to PKR. 42,000.


http://www.moremag.pk/2012/07/14/huawei-launching-5-android-smartphones-in-pakistan-with-competitive-prices/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on cheap Android smartphones outselling Apple iPhone and Samsung Android phones:

A lower-cost smartphone could allow Apple to expand into overseas markets — especially China, where the iPhone has been highly desired among many consumers but is just out of reach because of its price.

“A cheaper model will open up the market significantly for Apple,” said Chetan Sharma, an independent telecom analyst who consults for phone carriers.

Apple declined to comment on the new products. But analysts expect the higher-priced model to be an improvement over the current iPhone, including a faster processor and better camera flash, as well as a fingerprint sensor for security.

The second iPhone is expected to be a cheaper version of the soon-to-be-outdated iPhone 5, coming in a variety of colors, with a plastic case instead of aluminum. Analysts expect the full price of the lower-cost iPhone to be $300 to $400, positioning it as a midtier product.

Apple has been enormously successful, with the iPhone driving most of its revenue. In the second quarter, the company took 53 percent of the profit in the global smartphone market, with Samsung Electronics, which uses Google Android software to run its smartphones, taking the rest, according to a survey by Canaccord Genuity, an investment bank.

But both Apple and Samsung face a common enemy: the tide of manufacturers that produce dirt-cheap Android phones. While they make all the profits, Apple and Samsung have seen their combined share of the worldwide smartphone market drop to 43 percent in the second quarter from 49 percent a year earlier. The makers of cheaper phones — including Huawei, Yulong and ZTE of China, and Micromax and Karbonn of India — are raking in sales in emerging markets where high-end smartphones are not popular.

“We’ve had several indications from the handset market that vendors are in real trouble,” said Tero Kuittinen, an analyst for Alekstra, a mobile diagnostics firm. “The biggest threat to all the companies seems to be the low-end Androids.”

In terms of sales, smartphones surpassed traditional flip phones this year. There are a few markets remaining where traditional cellphones are still outselling the smartphone, including India, Brazil and Russia. Data from Qualcomm suggests that Latin America, China and India are adding substantially higher numbers of smartphone subscriptions than North America, Japan, Korea and Europe.

China, with its huge population, is an attractive target for Apple. But Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said recently in a call with investors that the company was puzzled about why sales of its products were struggling in China. Sales there fell 4 percent in the second quarter compared with the same quarter last year. And Apple’s sales in Hong Kong were down about 20 percent.

A cheaper iPhone could help it gain traction in China, depending on its cost.


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/technology/apple-is-set-to-announce-two-iphones.html

Riaz Haq said...

From Express Tribune:

Pakistani internet users are rapidly moving towards a new era of mobile internet dominance over access from desktop computer, a new survey sponsored by Google has found.
According to a press release, this trend follows a decline in the prices of smartphones and tablets, and anticipated launch of 3G services.
Internet-capable feature phones are expected to continue to play an important role, too. An additional factor is the unreliability of the electricity supply which is also helping to promote the usage of tablets and smartphones in Pakistan.
The findings come from a survey of over 1,000 Pakistanis by research firm IDC on behalf of Google. The “Pakistan Digital Consumer Study” conducted earlier this quarter took a look at the life of the connected Pakistani consumer.
The survey found that digital consumers are engaging more with the internet than ever before. The study revealed that home is the preferred location for Internet access — even for mobile-only users, who prefer to use their home wi-fi connection.
The top three activities in Pakistan both on desktop and mobile Internet are: social media, email and general search.
The main challenge of Internet proliferation in Pakistan are the quality and reliability of connectivity — including poor speed or bandwidth availability, perceived value-for-money, customer service quality, limited choice of plans and frequency of service interruptions. The unreliability of the power supply is also a factor, the press release stated.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/64