GSM vs 3G

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Around a decade ago, GSM was the latest ‘in’ thing in the world. It promised superior quality and strength over traditional TDMA/CDMA systems and a host of other benefits. It became so popular, that over 3 quarters of the world embraced it! SMS’ing became a curiosity, then a fashion statement and then a need. So much so, that it started representing the lifeblood of communication among many.

Today, its 3G. Promising a high speed data bandwidth and a multitude of benefits, 3G is poised to take over as the dominant mobile technology. The only thing is, it is being sidelined by the incumbents, especially in Pakistan! They’ve invested way too much and do not want anything to take over their revenue stream. The situation is not so different as it was in the US when GSM was launched. The incumbents were too rigid to allow a new technology to come in, and as a result, the US telecom market is shaped very differently from the rest of the world.

The thing is, with the advent of a 3G spectrum, two things can happen.

1. Existing operators would upgrade their networks and add 3G capability. I really dont see that happening anytime soon, since quite a few of them are still in the process of expanding their reach and capacities.

2. New operators would appear to tap the gap.

The second step was being railroaded in the past couple of months, ever since the topic of 3G came up. The thing is, the mobile operators are a strong party, which can twist the arm of law makers into their favor. Or atleast they thought. The PTA has been surprisingly proactive in making sure unfair practices are not done by these giants. The latest blow, or so it seem, was to allow them 9 months, instead of the 2 years they were demanding, for auctioning of the 3G spectrum in the country. The PTA has finally decided to go ahead with the auctioning of the 3G spectrum late this year and have new operators and service providers compete and bring this technology home.

In any event, we should expect to see some form a rollout between 2009-2010 of 3G services and service providers, opening a whole new door of opportunities and economic activities.

Facebook comments:


  • I might have to eat my words within the next 10 years but I’ll risk it…

    Without creating localized content… High speed data currently has no market within Pakistan!

    If you don’t have people who need the water (its an analogy!!)
    No matter how big a pipe you bring in it won’t work!!

  • I sorta agree with you Spark. There is a huge market in Pakistan for mobile content providers. I am surprised that no one has actually tapped it yet. 😉

  • Do remember that most of Pakistani population is still trying to coup with things like MMS and voice sms etc hence it will take time for mobile content but the trend has been good.

    3G is an excellent option for country like Pakistan where we have been struggling to get decent bandwidth for too long. If its done correctly!! it can very well become a decent option for high speed Internet connection.

    Etisalat in Saudi and Dubai launch 7.2 mbps connection with full mobility (USB card) and home router for a flat rate (with data cap of course).

    The opportunities are unlimited however don’t expert a 3G coverage across Pakistan. Not to mention it will encourage fair competition in broadband Internet segment and end user will have more options.


  • Majid,

    I respect that the broadband internet users would get another choice in addition to Wimax, Landline DSL and E1/T1s…. but with competition the revenue returned would thin up….

    3G i.e. Mobile broadband’s market is not the corporate world. It is meant to be used by the common man and what uses does a common man of Pakistan has for such high speed data connection? A study of the common GPRS data usage in Pakistan would give you the answer to this!

  • majid: on the mobile front, the only problem why MMS has not gotten upto speed is the capability of cell phones.

    for the masses (especially after the cellphone snatching epidemic) cheap cellphones were the order of the day just to keep in touch. hence you have 2000-3000 rupee cellphones without any expanded internet services in the pockets of the people (e.g. nokia 1100 and LG KG270).

    these masses are the target for high data services, yet they’re going without them.

  • Spark: Pakistan is a low ARPU country in the first place hence the operators and vendor have different strategies in these markets. Its not all that profitable but even then we have seen foreign companies doing huge accusations in Pakistan for the sake of market share and diversification. 3G wouldn’t be the first choice for corporate user but if you DSL keeps flapping then it would give you a different means to continue with your business as some service is better then no service. Cisco and other vendor have 3G based routers now up for offering.

    Mansoor: If the handsets are the issue then we can forget about 3G penetration into masses. Another reason that comes to my mind is literacy rate in our country is quite low hence for most of users the most they can do is SMS but as we move along this might see a big of shift or subscribe to VAS services by calling call center. If this

    On same note Nokia today announced plan for 4G(LTE) based handset


  • 3G might be a long way for now, but someone is stepping on the gas already.
    I was sending an MMS an hour ago and found that my cell phone is showing an EDGE connection instead of my usual GPRS. Yup guys, Warid is testing EDGE in Karachi atleast. Good news soon….?

  • hi
    i am doing a little research on 3g, can any one tell me what will be the consumer behavior, if 3g is launched in Pakistan. Plus will people will going to accept it?

  • check out Motorola’s website i think the report is titled “3G generation is here”. might be of some use..

  • Hello everyone, i am currently working on a telecommunication project in TCS, with a special focus on 3G.
    Folks, this seems to be a total pakistan oriented discussion out here.But a topic like 3G requires a universal, it would be really great if the every body in this discussion board can throw in some light on the global performance and current scene of 3G services.

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