The debate on whether the time is suited to introduce 3G technology in Pakistan has gained a lot of momentum since the past year. Does 3G appear to be a plausible changeover after the apparent flop of Wimax technology in Pakistan?Or is the market ready to take a plunge in to the 3G world that has taken over not only the developed but even the emerging economies such as China and India?
It is an established fact that out of a teledensity of 60.2%,Â the mobile user penetration has reached almost 58.3% as of March ’09 with around 91.4 cellular subscribers in Pakistan (PTA). One might consider that with such a large number of mobile users, the market for introducing 3G is undoubtedly present. True, the trend is moving towards purchasing 3G compatible handsets, but the fact of the matter is, that is this transaction on the basis of the “cool features” or the usefulness of the product? I’ve seen many people, who might not even be aware of how to type a text, purchase a cellphone that boasts such “fancy” features.
This brings me to my second point, that even with such a deep penetration, the rate of GPRS subscribers has still not reached a handsome amount, specially if compared to India. The number ofÂ people using facebook on their cell phonesÂ is undoubtedly increasing but yet again this ratioÂ is still very minute.Â Coupled with a low GPRS subscriber rate is the low broadband penetration. Even with low rates and high speeds, the rush towards broadband subscription lacks the heat. Therefore, the picture that comes to the mind is that Pakistan is evidently not ready for 3G.
However, the flip side of the coin shows a different picture. To have access to broadband, first and foremost a PC or a laptop is required. The cost of a PCÂ starts atÂ around $400 and is surely not in harmony with the average income per capita. 3G handsets, on the other hand, have had a sharp decrease in their prices and cost no more than $70. The picture that now pops up is that with a single 3G handset the probability of a high rate of internet users can easily be worked up on.
However, up comes anotherÂ drone attack from the anti-3G minds : low literacy rate in Pakistan poses a hindrance for the success of 3G. This might,Â to some extent, reallyÂ appear to be a rock in theÂ path. But again, one needs to realize that out of a population of 17crore, 56.8% own a handset.Â And this 56.8%, if not knowing how to text, can easilyÂ attend a call and make one as well. 3G, is not just limited to data packages but also provides other benefits, such asÂ Video Conferencing.Â Say, if people can learn how to dial a number, how difficult can it possibly get for a person inÂ NathiaÂ Gali, to show on his cell phone, a live coverage ofÂ his serene surroundings?
Secondly,Â the major cell phone subscribers are the onesÂ residing in the metropolitan cities of the country. AndÂ yes theyÂ doÂ comprise of the educated class, whoÂ doÂ tweet theirÂ status online throughtÂ their cell phone. This clique demands on-the-go high speed internet connectivity as well- a feat that can best be provided by 3G technology.
3G license auctioning has still not been executed, even though it has been a year since its inception. Is the governement ready to auction the spectrum and most importantly, are the cellular companies up for the challenge in the current economic scenario, where even the telecom sector of Pakistan has suffered a blow?