Cellular Difference – Pakistan Vs USA

The Nation,newspaper, chief reporter Afzal Bajwa has been to US recently for fellowship program in Stanford University. On his arrival in US, he came across some cellular operators . Following is what he wrote in his article… Keep reading to know how better Pakistan is from USA and other countries when it come to cellular networks.

Back home, pre-paid SIM cards are common, and I assumed that the AT&T store would try to sell me one for use during my three-month visit to the U.S. But the front-desk folks immediately asked me to sign up for a year-long contract if I expected to get an affordable deal. Subsequent encounters with other cellular operators here made me to realize that although Silicon Valley is considered the world center for innovation and technology, the U.S. wireless market is inflexible and uncompetitive.

For the first time in my life, I felt that Pakistanis were better served than Americans, with at least five world-class operators in Pakistan engaged in fierce competition.

In Pakistan, all carriers use GSM technology, making it easy for customers to switch service providers; in the U.S., moving from Verizon to AT&T or vice-versa means having to pay for a new handset, since Verizon uses CDMA and AT&T uses GSM.

In Pakistan, you can recharge your pre-paid SIM card at any retail store, unlike here in the U.S. where you need to look for the particular operator’s outlet.

In Pakistan, multiple operators already offer next-generation WiMax wireless service; in the U.S., Sprint’s WiMax network is getting off to a sputtering start. And Pakistan’s regulators are reviewing license applications for 3G video services, while Americans are still trying to get their pricey iPhones to work reliably on AT&T’s 3G network at all.

I already had a Nokia E90 Communicator smartphone, with 3G connectivity, a real QWERTY keyboard, a full office suite, strong e-mail features, and multimedia capabilities. For me, it’s a more useful device than the iPhone, and I didn’t want to give it up. And the local technology-obsessed people in California I showed it to were impressed by it, even though this powerful phone seems to be largely unknown in this country. But it’s a GSM handset, so I had to discard every operator that doesn’t offer GSM: MetroPCS, Sprint, and Verizon.

My only remaining options were AT&T and T-Mobile. The plans they offered weren’t competitive with the ones I was used to back home: Rather than paying at least $75-100 per month for unlimited voice and data, I would have been better off using international roaming on my own Pakistan cell number.

Free incoming calls and free incoming text messages are common in Pakistan, but when I asked AT&T and T-Mobile’s staffers about them, they didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.

One rep at an AT&T store in San Francisco seemed to be more aware of the cell-phone world outside the U.S.–he smiled and said, “there is no such thing like free incoming here, but they probably offer it in Europe.” But he probably didn’t realize that Pakistan carriers offer cheap plans with no charge for incoming calls and text messages.

The service is so affordable that even low-paid laborers and daily market vendors benefit from it.
Pakistan’s mobile-phone growth has been among the fastest in the world: Usage has increased from perhaps just a few percent of the population in 2003 to more than fifty percent of the country’s 160 million citizens.

Mobile carriers are collaborating with the government to extend state-of-the-art wireless connectivity from coastal areas to glacier-covered mountains like K2. They’re also bringing mobile-phone banking to the remotest farming communities, to strengthen agriculture, the backbone of Pakistan’s economy.
It’s the simplicity and low cost of wireless service that have driven the growth that gives mobile carriers the millions in profits they need to invest in these advances. And as I’ve dealt with the challenges of wireless here in the U.S., I appreciate what the wireless companies back home are accomplishing even more.

Source: Afzal Bajwa


  • Rashid Rupani

    Nice to read goods words about our loving country Pakistan. Pakistan Zindabad.

  • I think its very biased. Just because we’ve first 5 operators doesn’t mean we’ve quality service. Connectivity and coverage is pathetic. Having worked in off-shore call centers for 3 years and later in Telenor, i know its awful. Internet is inconsistent and pathetic. Reported problems with iphone’s problems with AT&T is rather over-rated too. I know people for whom it works like charm. Its also true for Blackberries, Communicators and other smartphone owners i know of. Price is hardly an issue and it would be abysmally flawed to compare prices with Pakistan. Customer service is way better than in Pakistan. I use skype for most phone calls and i’ve never had problems with call conversion and connections to mobile operators in US. (I own a world unlimited Skype paid subscription.)

    Argument about growth in telco infrastructure is also fallacious. Growth rate is high because of the lack of telco coverage at the moment. US is a saturated market and growth rate is destined to be low. Coverage is hardly an issue (atleast not as hard as here in Pakistan) and consumer awareness and technology trends could be blamed for people who aren’t online even in today’s US market. In Pakistan less 5% of total users are dsl subscribers according to latest ICT report. With this kind of status quo growth rate is naturally has to be dramatic even for slightest change. a 10% market capitalization would be 100% growth which might be jaw dropping for corporate bragging, but if you have a little idea on how markets and statistics work, its hilarious.

    • flavio

      word! Check what I wrote man!

  • flavio

    Well I live here in the north of Mexico near the border with the continental USA. I actually work for ATT as a Costumer service representative.
    There might not be free incoming calls. But more than 72 million wireless phone numbers you can call for free or receive a call for free in the whole country, without any national roaming nor long distance.
    Also you can use a unity plan, this is when combining the wireless bill with the att land line service. If you do this then you can receive/call any wireless and land line ATT number for free.
    The 3g network is fully functional and has 6mbps.
    Our cheapest plan with night and weekends might sound very expensive for you, but it’s only 59.99 plus if you want Text unlimited it would be another 20 usd. But take in account that the average usa citizen sends over 1000 text messages a month, so think about how many they receive if they know about 10 average americans. Also we have signal in over 75% of the continental usa. and well hawai, virgin islands and alaska as well. We offer roaming in over 200 countries, and we have discounts in over 100.

    Here in México sounds pretty much as in Pakistan, but I’m still amazed by what we costumer service reps can do for people in the usa, I can not share this information, but BUY WOULD I LOVE that our leading telecomunications companies had at least the service they have in the usa because our costumer service is FIRST CALL RESOLUTION POLICIES! So in ATT you don’t have to call again for nothing, you and if you do we are going to solve them, we treat the costumer like it’s our own family and believe me, we have the tools needed in order to surprise you with the solutions we can achieve for your bill, wireless, and etc. Plus we all ready have a lot of QWERTY phones, 12 key phones, Pearl phones (a combined kind of mobile by RIM) and well touch pad phones about 5 different models. We offer about 1000 different models for costumers with discount prices, rebate money back offers and even free phones. also our Unlimited plan is 99.99 a month (this means you can call receive any call any moment any time in every part of the usa for that price) you also need text and data? no problem would be another 35 usd a month! 134.99 dollars a month is nothing for a USA citizen who is making about 12 dollars an hour, and that’s like a bit higher than minimum pay…

    Prepaid plans we do have check out http://www.att.com/wireless for more information we have two different prepaid plans and they are very cheap.
    Sim cards available for only 25 usd, plus 15 that you can charge using prepaid cards on a prepaid account.

    • Muhammad Abrar Naeem

      Thats awesome , flavio

    • thinkali

      well bro sorry but, I have to tell you that, Paki Mobile market rulez, thats it Man look at US you have minimum plan is that of 39.99 / month yea, ok well with at least a year plan. ok but if you wish to get out of it well you got to pay some panelty, man its cruel here with each guy usually have 4-5 sims already, one used for sms one used for office one used for home and one used for GPRS.. so you got the plan that you want. and 39.99 is rs. 3200/- man here a casual user generally donot spend more than 500 rupees on moible usage.. ok they say in US you get free talk time on weekends yes you do get free air time like 600 minutes well bro i tell you when i call my friend at US he donot receive my calls say yaar ghar par kiya kar mujhey pay karna parta hai moble pe receiving ka… lol and yes i have been to US and lived there for year or so and I know you get rubbish phone with a cheap year plan.. and yes there are issues with signals too bro no matter what any body say i have used cell phones in US. and just look at wimax market here. no enthusiasm for wimax in US. i tell you PAK GSM rulez.

  • Hidden Eye

    Points noted Flavio…very well rounded up… and so did by Minhaaj!!!

  • gumby

    I have lived for 3 years in US. US market is way different than Pakistan. Its right that in Pakistan we have pre-paid phones/sims everywhere but 90% of those customers can’t afford a call. They rely mostly on text messages and/or missed calls despite the cheapest rates over here. In US you get free minutes every month and those are for any network plus landline throughout USA and even Canada for some cases. Plus you get free night and weekends. Free nights from 9pm to 7am every day and free weekends from Saturday 12am to Monday 7am. During this period your monthly free minutes are not consumed and you can talk FREE to any landline or mobile number in USA. Plus you get free phones or discounted phones with rebates when you sign up an year contract. You can even get multiple numbers and free phones by obtaining a family plan that is much cheaper than individual plan. Lets have a look at the plan I had with T-Mobile.

    Monthly Line Rent: US$ 39.99
    Monthly free minutes: 600 (some networks even allow you to carry your unused free minutes to next month)
    Free nights and weekends plus I got a Nokia 6610 for free in 2003 when it was worth Rs. 15000+ in Pakistan.

    Text messaging is not very common in USA since everyone prefers and can afford a call.

  • Inam Orakzai

    LONG LIVE PAKISTAN!
    We Love U..

  • All he could have done is go to a Radio Shack and get a Prepaid ATT motorla phone after all the disocunts etc I got $ 40 call time on spending $45 with a free Motorola Phone with SIM , the SIM worked well on my N95-8gb although ATT rep told me it won’t . the Motorola phone is locked and of no use in Pakistan . Yes they charge for both incoming and outgoing call from Pakistan was Rs 2/min receiving call in US was Rs 7/min ( I was there in July 2008)