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. 

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. 


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 Sp├ęcial 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


“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 Rozgar.pk – 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...

IT ministry to establish more software technology parks


He (Minister of IT) said the (Pakistan federal) government had also decided to set up an information technology park near the Jinnah International Airport in the trade and business hub of Karachi at a cost of Rs 31 billion.

The IT park would house about 210 IT companies having 8,400 employees. Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) would act as the project executing agency and complete it in six years.

The IT park would span over an area of 106,449 square meters with eight floors above the ground and three basement floors, he said.

To a question, the official said the ministry of IT had recently inaugurated IT Park in Islamabad, consisting of twelve-storey self-contained building on covered area of 66,893 square meters.

The IT Park would be developed with state-of-the-art infrastructure and allied facilities for IT companies with financial assistance of Exim Bank, Korea, he added.The project, he said, would be completed in 30 months with the total cost of Rs 13.72 billion.

Riaz Haq said...

#Samsung plans #smartphone assembly in #Pakistan. Smartphone imports in Pakistan have swelled by 63% to $1.860 billion in 11MFY21 from $1.138bn in the same period last year. There are over 100 million #mobile #broadband subscribers. DAWN.COM


South Korean tech giant Samsung has been in talks with three investors for setting up a mobile manufacturing unit in Pakistan.

Sources said out of three parties, one has a franchise from Korea which has already set up vehicle assembling plants in Pakistan under Auto Development Policy (ADP) 2016-21, while other two are different parties.

They said so far no agreement has been signed as Samsung, after short listing various companies, is in the process of finalising its plan to award the licence to one of the companies for cellphone manufacturing.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker said in an earnings estimate on Wednesday that it expected operating profit of around 12.5 trillion won ($11 billion) for April to June, up from 8.15 trillion won a year earlier.

Companies being shortlisted for award of licence

“The Korean company aims to start local assembly of cellphones in the last quarter of this year,” a source, who is looking after the development in the mobile phone sector, told Dawn on Wednesday.

Market sources said Samsung may prefer the option to ink the agreement with one of the Korean companies operating in Pakistan owing to comfort level which it may not find with non-Korean firms.

The Engineering Development Board (EDB), an arm of the Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP), approved Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy (MDMP) in 2020 and so far 21 companies have been given the green signal for mobile device manufacturing authorisation from March to June 2021.

As per EDB list, factories’ locations include Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Islamabad. Some prominent brand names include Nokia, Oppo, Infinix, Tecno, Itel, Vivo, Alpha, Realme, VGOTEL, DCODE, Calme, Xcell, Spice, TCL, Alcatel, etc.

Sources said that the government has framed MDMP to encourage foreign players to take a plunge in Pakistan for setting up cellphone manufacturing unit. The aim is to produce the product under the banner of “Make in Pakistan” and to discourage imports.

Cellphone imports, as per figures of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), have swelled by 63pc to $1.860 billion in 11MFY21 from $1.138bn in the same period last fiscal year.

According to the Economic Survey 2020-21, during July 2012 to February 2021, telecom sector has attracted over $3.9 billion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The FDI in telecom during July-February FY21 was $101.1 million. Telecom operators have invested an amount of $363.9m during July-December FY21.

The main driver behind this investment is the cellular mobile sector which has invested $253.5m during the period. The overall investment in the telecom sector during the first eight months of FY21 crossed $465m. Pakistan’s cellphone subscribers have reached 183.48m till May 2021.

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. https://www.brecorder.com/news/40107634


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...

#China's Oppo to set up a dedicated assembly line in #Pakistan for Realme to produce #5G-enabled #smartphones and another for artificial intelligence (#AI) products at affordable rates. #Mobile #technology #Telecommunications #Internet #Broadband

Many smartphone companies have expressed their intention to begin production of mobile phones in Pakistan after cellular giant Samsung collaborated with the Lucky Group to produce high-quality phones in the country.

Now, the companies are making efforts to introduce 5G phones in the local market.

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Realme has shared plans to launch 5G-enabled phones in Pakistan at affordable prices after its parent announced the establishment of a local assembly line in the country.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Realme Regional Marketing Director Sherry Dong said that the brand received an excellent reception in Pakistan, hence the company was now prioritising the country to introduce 5G mobile phones.

She added that the company was the first smartphone brand in Pakistan to sell over a million devices in less than a year, which was a significant milestone and paved the way for new investments and introduction of diverse products.

She announced that the company was planning to set up a local assembly line for its products after which top-notch technology would be available in Pakistan at affordable prices.

Read More: Why 5G is still out of Pakistan’s grasp

A few years ago, Realme’s parent company, Oppo Mobile Telecommunications Ltd, had expressed its interest in setting up a mobile assembly plant in Pakistan.

Giving further details, she said that the facility would have two separate assembly lines - one for each brand.

With a dedicated assembly line for Realme, the company will introduce 5G-enabled mobiles as well as other artificial intelligence (AI) products at affordable rates.

“5G is the future, therefore, we have to provide up-to-date technological products to Pakistani consumers at affordable prices,” she added.

The company utilises online marketplaces to promote its products because e-commerce has grown significantly in Pakistan due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Keeping this in view, the management of the smartphone company has decided to introduce its own digital store in Pakistan’s online marketplace.

“We entered into partnerships with a couple of local companies to sell our products, but now we have decided to establish our own digital outlet in Pakistan,” she said.

Sherry added that digital platforms in Pakistan had matured over the past couple of years, but they still lagged behind regional countries.

She pointed out that the company faced some issues with Pakistan Customs as delay in release of shipments had caused shortage of its products.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan begins #export of #smartphones . After authorisation from Pakistan #Telecom Authority (PTA), Inovi Telecom has exported 5,500 units of 4G smartphones carrying "manufactured in Pakistan" tag to the United Arab Emirates (#UAE). #electronics


"PTA congratulates the company for this landmark achievement. This is the result of concerted efforts for the development of the mobile device manufacturing ecosystem in the country," the authority said in a statement issued on Saturday.

It said that the successful implementation of the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) and enabling government policies including the mobile manufacturing policy have created a favourable environment for mobile device manufacturing in Pakistan.

"As a part of this policy, Inovi Telecom Pvt. Ltd was issued mobile manufacturing authorisation by PTA on 9th April 2021," it added.

Within four months, according to PTA, the company has managed to export "manufactured in Pakistan" phones.

In recent times, the telecom sector has emerged as a prominent contributor to Pakistan’s economy as its share in the national exchequer soared 129% in 2020 compared to 2019, despite economic pressure arising from Covid-19.

In July, Lucky Motor Corporation entered into an agreement with Samsung Gulf Electronics to produce Samsung mobile phones in Pakistan at its automobile plant at Port Qasim.

In comments to The Express Tribune, Tecno Pack Telecom CEO Aamir Allawala termed the joint venture excellent development for the country

Samsung was a mobile phone giant and its decision to assemble phones in Pakistan was an indication of the success of the Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy (MDMP) launched by the government in June 2020, said Allawala.

The vision of the policy was clear i.e. by 2022, 80% of all mobile phones sold in Pakistan should be locally manufactured, he said.

The brands already being manufactured in Pakistan included Tecno, Infinix, Itel, Vivo, Oppo and Realme while Nokia was in the process of setting up a plant and kick-starting operations in September 2021, Allahwala further said.

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 https://www.imore.com/pakistan-business-leader-hints-iphone-plant-country

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...

#Pakistan Manufactured 9.72m #MobilePhones Locally in First 4 months of 2022. 53 % of mobile devices are #smartphones and 47 % are 2G. Pakistan imported mobile phones worth $1.810 billion in first 10 months of FY22 compared to $1.684 billion in FY21 https://www.phoneworld.com.pk/locally-manufactured-phones-2022/

In the month of April, the units manufactured/assembled 2.56 million mobile phones against 0.25 million imports. In 2021, Pakistan has manufactured/assembled 24.66 million mobile phones locally as compared to 13.05 million in 2020.

The country also witnesses a decline in the imports of mobile phones. In 2021, the country imported 10.26 million mobile phones compared to 24.51 million in 2020.

Among the 9.72 million mobile phones, 5.69 million are 2G and 4.03 million are smartphones. According to PTA data, 53 % of mobile devices are smartphones and 47 % are 2G on the Pakistan network.

Although the industry has seen significant growth in mobile phone production, still we are lagging behind in some terms. For instance, Pakistan imported mobile phones worth $1.810 billion during the first ten months (July-April) of 2021-22 compared to $1.684 billion during the same period of last year, registering a growth of 7.43 per cent.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the overall telecom import increased by 14.05 per cent from (July-April) 2021 to 22.

Riaz Haq said...

Can #Pakistan become the next #tech #manufacturing hub? #Samsung is now assembling all its top #smartphones, except for the foldable Z-Series, in Pakistan. Pak can save some of over $2 billion spent on #mobile #phone imports last year.#technology @TRTWorld https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/can-pakistan-become-the-next-tech-manufacturing-hub-58812

A number of smartphone companies, including Samsung, have set up assembly plants in Pakistan in the past year. But this nascent industry is facing local challenges.
Along a dusty pot-holed road in Korangi industrial estate, one of Karachi’s designated factory zones, sewage runs in open drains, rag pickers collect plastic bottles, and car mechanics sweat at makeshift workshops.

It’s a June day with a temperature topping 35 degrees Celsius. Tempers flare up easily. Trucks loaded with textiles and chemicals zoom past, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake.

Incessant and prolonged electricity breakdowns mean many factory workers are sleep-deprived. Few can afford to lose daily wages in Pakistan, where the government struggles to bring in much-needed foreign investment to stabilise its fragile economy.

But amid this chaos, men and women donning blue and pink coats and special slippers walk through a passageway of one of the factories where a ventilation system blows dust specks off their clothes before they enter a long corridor flanked by different workstations. This is where Premier Code, a Pakistani company, manufactures smartphones.

“We need to be very careful about the environment in which we work. Karachi’s weather is different. There’s a lot of dust. So we make sure everything is clean. Our workers are not even allowed to bring water bottles where the phones are assembled,” says Nauman Amjad, the factory manager.

“We import parts from China and then assemble them here. But we have our own SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), which employees follow to put the components together,” he tells TRT World.

Workers skillfully attach charging jacks and cameras to the motherboard as the phones — known as Dcode in the market — move along the assembly line. Plumes of cold air seep out of air humidifiers placed at various workstations.

Just a few years back, all mobile phones in Pakistan were imported. That changed two years ago when the then-government introduced a policy incentivising local assembly of the phones via tax rebates and other measures.

In 2021, local manufacturers produced 24.66 million handsets and imports drastically decreased, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the industry regulator.

Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, now assembles all its top brands, except for the foldable Z-Series, locally.

Local manufacturing and contract assembly mean Islamabad can slow the drain on its foreign exchange reserves. Pakistanis spent more than $2 billion on importing cell phones last year.

A high import bill and debt repayments have depleted official coffers and forced policymakers to try and negotiate a loan with the IMF.

With more than 114 million 3G and 4G subscribers, Pakistan has a large young population hooked on apps like TikTok and PUBG, which has increased the demand for smartphones.

Imposition of high tax on the import of mobile phone sets and tax rebates for local assembly has encouraged investment, according to industry professionals.

The PTA has issued licences to more than two dozen companies to assemble phones for the domestic market.

Contract manufacturing, wherein large brands such China’s Xiaomi outsource the assembly of phones to companies in countries like Vietnam, is not new.

Vietnam has emerged as one of the leading countries in the assembly and export of smartphones and other tech products in the past decade.

Apple recently moved part of its iPad manufacturing to Vietnam from China, where Covid lockdowns have disrupted supply chains.

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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.

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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.

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IT Ministry Launches Optical Fiber Cable Projects Worth Rs. 5 Billion

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) has launched three more projects of Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) worth Rs. 5 billion for six districts in Sindh.

The projects will provide high-speed connectivity to 4.2 million people in Larkana, Hyderabad, Badin, Qambar Shahdadkot District, Jamshoro, and Badin, and will be completed in 16 months. The contract for the projects was signed between the Universal Service Fund (USF) and Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL).Speaking at the signing ceremony, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said in line with the vision of Digital Pakistan, the MoITT has been running diverse projects through the Universal Service Fund (USF). These projects are playing a huge role in the socio-economic development of the locals.

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin uI Haque speaking at the occasion said that the ministry aims to connect all the citizens of Pakistan through the USF as digitalization has become a priority for businesses and communities.

Under its Next Generation Optic Fiber (NG-OF) Network & Services program, the USF has contracted over 16,000 km of OFC to benefit 31.5 million people across the country by providing access to information and e-suite services, such as e-healthcare, e-finance, e-agriculture, and e-education.

The minister added that the MoITT is enabling the rural and remote communities to compete better and support economic development for a positive impact on the national GDP while contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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OneWeb secures Pakistan distribution | Advanced Television


The newly formed OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV will bring high-speed satellite connectivity to NEOM, Saudi Arabia, the wider Middle East and neighbouring countries including Pakistan.

The OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV has exclusive rights to distribute OneWeb services in these regions for seven years, and is expected to commence operations in 2023.

The OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV is looking to transform businesses and communities, stimulating enterprise across the region, with gateways and Points of Presence (POPs) in the Middle East providing security, speed and low latency data to sectors such as finance and retail, as well as schools and hospitals.

The JV says it will offer a seamless solution to infrastructural hurdles in Pakistan, where mobile operators and local loop operators will be able to leverage the service to expand their coverage areas, offering dependable low-cost internet access.

Matthew Johnson, Interim CEO of the OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV, said: “LEO satellites not only mean we can reach absolutely everyone everywhere, but with reliable and rapid speeds – connectivity at 100 megabits per second and more without the need for techniques such as trenching or placement of 5G equipment and fiber optics. This partnership with REDtone highlights how this technology presents an incredible growth opportunity for the wider region.”

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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.

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Chinese firm starts to lay 16,000-km-long fibre-optic cable in Pakistan


This was stated by Tony Lee, Chief Executive Officer of Sunwalk Pvt Limited, during a ceremony held in Islamabad. This Chinese company had already invested $5 million in Pakistan, and now planning to invest $100 million for laying optical fiber in other parts after getting Right of Way (ROW) from different public sector departments.

Tony Lee said Sunwalk is focusing on fast deployment and concentrating on quality according to the ITU-T Standards. “We are always committed to the best services in Pakistan”, he said.

Two months ago, Sunwalk Group Chairman Hou Xing Wang told Federal Minister for IT and Telecom Aminul Haque in a meeting Sunwalk Group will soon start laying fiber cable across the country with substantial investment.

According to an official statement about the project, Ms Afshaan Malik, Chief Business Officer of Sunwalk Group Pakistan, said keeping in view Pak-China long-term strategic relationships, Sunwalk has fulfilled its promise by initiating the national fiber backbone project. Sunwalk is committed to providing optic cable to the people of Pakistan, she said.

In this connection, groundbreaking of Phase-1 (Islamabad to Multan) to provide nationwide fiber backbone was done on Thursday. Afshaan further said Sunwalk is in the process of getting ROW from government departments. After getting that $100 million will be invested, she said.

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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.