As the digital economy and social networking in the country is making huge strides, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the total number of mobile phone users in the country swelled up to around 140 million.
To be more specific, the total number of mobile phone subscribers in Pakistan reached 139.75 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, close to an all-time high of 139.97 million in 2014, according to the telecom regulator on Tuesday.
Moreover, Pakistan Telcommunication Authority (PTA) cancelled many suspected fake connection in 2014 after their users failed to prove their identity through biometric verification. In 2014, the telecommunication industry of Pakistan came in doldrums as speculation rife that mafias and terrorists were using SIMs registered under someone else’s name.
The initiative taken by the PTA to verify user’s identity resulted in a noticeable drop by 18% in cellular connections as subscribers plunged to 114.65 in 2015. PTA initiated the campaign in the wake of increasing terrorist activities, street crimes as mafias used illegally acquired SIMs. To tackle the issue, PTA and government decided to undertook a biometric verification campaign and canceled many suspected network connections.
The network connections have now recovered due to fast growing digital economy. Adding to that, telecom operators also has a major role in the surge of network connections as they have been working hard to introduce new services and packages at lower rates to entice users to switch to their platform.
The Central Bank in its latest quarterly reports said “Going forward, recently introduced Digital Pakistan Policy 2017 would provide a platform for sustainable development of the (telecom) sector while continuous improvement in voice traffic and broadband is expected to keep augmenting telecom revenues and its contribution to the national exchequer.”
Drop In Subscriptions
Unfortunately, the total number of subscription of new mobile connections plunged significantly in FY17. The financial year has witnessed a growth of only 5%, which means an additional 6.51 million new phone connections.
On the other hand, in 2016 a growth of 16% year-on year (YoY) was recorded, which means an addition of 18.58 million new connections.
Market gurus are of the view that drop in subscriptions might be attributed to the mandatory biometric verification, restriction on SIM connections to a maximum of five for subscriber compared to unlimited connection in FY14.
Mobile Data Consumption
The surge in mobile phone internet connection also experienced a drop, however, the number of broadband connection hit a new mark of 42.08 million in 2017. During the year, 12.55 million new 3G/4G connections were acquired against 16.03 million in 2016.
The State Bank of Pakistan said in its report: “After the introduction of next generation mobile services in the country in 2014, the 3G/4G technologies have been well received by the customers. The growth of 35% in July-March FY17 builds upon the impressive performance experienced in FY16 (when the subscription numbers grew around 118%).”
Experts say that consumption of cellular internet has experienced an increase due to the rise in the use of app – such as Whatsapp and Skype, and e-banking, branchless banking services like Easypaisa.