Tuesday, April 6, 2021

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. 

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. 

5 comments:

Nayyar A. said...

Mostly 3g? Compare with India or Bangladesh? Hopefully will drive education and promote literacy.

Riaz Haq said...

Nayyar A: "Mostly 3g? Compare with India or Bangladesh? Hopefully will drive education and promote literacy"

In #SouthAsia, #India has the highest 4G connections at 63% of the population followed by Pakistan. India tops for #smartphone users, at 69%, followed by #SriLanka with 60%, #Nepal 53%, #Pakistan 51% and #Bangladesh 41%, according to GSMA. #Broadband https://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/news/bangladesh-behind-nepal-pakistan-smartphone-use-2069457

Bangladesh is lagging behind most of its South Asian peers in terms of smartphone use, according to a report of GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide.

The report, released yesterday, said 41 percent of mobile phone users had smartphones in Bangladesh.

India has the highest percentage of smartphone users, at 69 percent, followed by Sri Lanka with 60 percent, Nepal 53 percent and Pakistan 51 percent.

The report was unveiled at a virtual roundtable organised jointly by GSMA (Groupe Spécial Mobile Association) and the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB).

The report, titled "Achieving mobile-enabled digital inclusion in Bangladesh", said 4G network now covered 95 per cent of the population. Yet, there was still a significant usage gap of 67 per cent as only 28 per cent of the population had 4G connections.

"This suggests a lag between 4G coverage rollout and usage of 4G services. This lag in usage is largely explained by issues related to the affordability of devices, low levels of knowledge and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, as well as safety and security concerns."


High sector-specific taxes, a fragmented licensing regime, as well as issues with the pricing and usage restrictions on spectrum have been identified as barriers to expanding coverage.

Bangladesh, however, fares better compared to Nepal and Sri Lanka in terms of 4G connections. Only 17 per cent of the population has 4G connections in Nepal, and 18 per cent in Sri Lanka, according to the report.

India has the highest 4G connections at 63 percent of the population followed by Pakistan.

Bangladesh has 17 crore mobile connections. Of them, nine crore are unique subscribers, giving a penetration rate of 54 percent as of December 2020.

Some 47 percent of subscribers use 2G connections and 25 per cent 3G connections.

The report said internet and digital technology played a key role in helping drive economic growth and societal development in Bangladesh.


Digital technologies, mobile in particular, will be crucial to implementing the government's 2041 Perspective Plan, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and recovering economically in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the report said.




Riaz Haq said...

Ookla tests found Pakistan's #4G #mobile #broadband download #speed nearly 40% faster than India's. #Bangladesh stood 3rd in #SouthAsia. Both India & Pak showed growth in internet download speeds year-over-year: #India 12%, #Pakistan 24% https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/india-trails-pakistan-in-4g-download-speed-report-says/article32982144.ece

India came second to Pakistan in terms of mean download speed over a mobile phone in the July to September period of 2020.

Pakistan showed nearly 40% faster mobile download speed than India last quarter, according to Internet access analytics firm Ookla.

In terms of mean upload speed, India stood last among the South Asian countries at nearly 4 Mbps. Bangladesh stood third for download speed and second for upload speed.

Both India and Pakistan showed a growth in internet download speeds over the year, with India growing by nearly 12% compared with the same period last year. Pakistan's download speed grew 24% this quarter compared with last year.


In terms of 4G LTE performance, Pakistan outperformed India with its mean download speed over 4G being 51% faster than India's.

India's mobile data speeds is said to be one of the slowest in the world, trailing Pakistan, Nepal, South Korea and Sri Lanka, according to Ookla's Speedtest Global Index. Ookla ranked 138 countries based on internet speeds and India ranked 131st.

India is one of the largest markets in the world for smartphones. It also has access to the one of the cheapest data rates around the globe. The findings also come at a time when operators worldwide compete to roll out the fastest internet service there could be - 5G.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan ready to adopt digital financial solutions on large scale, says Easypaisa CEO


https://nation.com.pk/06-Apr-2021/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

https://nation.com.pk/10-Apr-2021/edkasa-launches-mobile-app-to-revolutionise-on-demand-learning


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.