PTA Exposes its Inability to Count Actual Number of Cellular Subscribers in Pakistan

PTA doesn’t know a bit about the exact count of cellular subscribers in the country, claims a story produced in Dawn today.

Paper explains that declared figure of 100.1 million subscribers in the country is not correct as PTA doesn’t maintain a count of in-active subscribers while millions of other subscribers carry multiple sims with them.

Let’s have a look at selected excepts from Dawn’s story

“Since a large number of subscribers have more than one SIM, their actual number in Pakistan is not more than 60 to 65 million,” an official of a telecom operator said.

This is not a hidden fact now that actual subscribers are far lesser than the numbers quoted by PTA, by 40 percent as per estimates. This was first revealed by a report published by Daily Jang in 2008.

In a report produced by ProPakistani (in February 2010), it was further revealed that actual subscribers in Pakistan were 64 million as compared to 97.3 million declared subscribers by PTA.

Moreover, as a matter of fact, it is technically impossible to have 100 million subscribers in Pakistan with 79 million CNIC holders.

Dawn further writes:

According to a PTA spokesman, there are no international norms to record multiple SIMs being used by the users therefore the PTA records no such data. With regard to “inactive subscriber data”, he says it does not record any such data.

He says 100.1 million subscribers (Sept 2010) are based on the actual data received from the cellular operators.

He further says since the implementation of active subscriber definition, the PTA believes all figures reported by the operators are based strictly on that.

Our commentary on such a response from PTA is as following:

  • PTA is either miscommunicating or they are ignorant of the fact that they can have an exact figure of actual subscribers. This is possible by running a simple DB (database) query on 668 records. It gonna tell them total number of CNICs (or the subscribers) registered with all the operators. (ask me in comments if anyone needs further explanation of this point)
  • If PTA isn’t monitoring the “in-active subscribers” and is totally relying on cellular companies, one may wonder how good are the reports produced by operators. One may question the PTA’s sluggishness and inability to counter-check the head count sent by operators.
  • If PTA isn’t monitoring the cellular companies, public has a right to question the audit of license fee (millions of dollars) they are collecting.


PTA has responded to this post with an article here

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK

  • i need further explanation.

    (and 1 thing more 2 year back on 668 there was wrong info about my nic so i did necessary arrangements by visiting concerned franchises.
    now this 668 service tells me that i have no sim on my nic while i have done proper documentation for my all sims in regional headoffices of cellular companies. PTA updated my nic record and then now its again messed up. will u explain this too)

    • Okay, if PTA has a system in place that tells numbers of SIMs (of all operators) against once CNIC, then it is very simple to find out total number CNIC stored in database.

      It is usually done with a single liner query for MS SQL or Oracle, or whatever database they are using.

      About your other question: I can’t explain this mess-up. Maybe data was wrongly merged, or you are possibly shown out-dated data.

      • hmm i got ur point. actually they them selves are unable to load all nic data to 668.

        but its worth mentioning here that in last 2 years they modified my nic info 3 times so it means they are working : )
        but they dnt know what to do.

        jokes apart but this 668 thing is very important and it should be updated correctly because u know nowadays bad situations related with terrorism. its the only way citizens can help themselves but PTA is not helping us either.

        we can make a complaint about cellular company to PTA (which is of no use ) but where we can make a complaint about PTA?

  • PTA reports the total number of subscriptions in the country and the number in that aspect is correct. The number you are referring is the mobile penetration which is also reported by PTA.

    Please do not criticize without doing proper research.

  • One of my number is registered against my old NIC and another number is against CNIC. If you query 668 it would show 2 different customer.

  • Aamir Bahi – I totally agree with the bottom line that the figures they used are not reliable anymore but you might like to add one more thing!

    There are quite a number of subscribers under the age of 18 and they are all using their parents’ ID card for registration purpose of their sim card so don’t you think we cannot ‘completely’ related the number of CNIC with the subscriber figure!

  • aamir bhai please dont be geo’s kamran khan now. :)
    this is the case every where in the world. when GSMA says 5.5 billion subscriptions, they too are counting sims and not heads.
    NICs will be a wrong way to count, as all under 18 year olds (a big number) are required to buy connections on fathers etc name. also corporates generally book a lot of people under their key personnel name.
    Cellcos in pakistan do monthly brand related surveys and in +-3% reliability, they have been reporting a 30% dual sim instance – this would take us to more or less your estimate of a 70 million customers.

    it will keep becoming more and more harder to define user number by the way. With more and more gadgets coming in with independent sims the line will become very blurry. for example, if yopu have 2 cell phones, your cars trakker has a sim, your laptop has a data sim then how many users should we count here. :)

    sorry for rambling on, buit this sounded like an interesting discussion.


    • Amir Bhai, i totally agree with Khan on this.

      Sometimes we have to believe our people too :-), PTA cannot always be wrong. Further subscribers are always counted on the SIM sales regardless of the population count.

      Newspapers and other media don’t have any relevance expertise to comment on the Telecom sector. PTA has made mistakes in the past like the price war between operators which has squeezed the profits for each telecom operator in pakistan with the rise in energy prices.

      At last but not least, this is a debatable discussion and PTA has right to defend itself.

  • PTA doesnt know a lot of other things that it has no clue about but we have to live with it.

    But then that is true for the Government of Pakistan as well.

    Criticism should be constructive and not ridiculing if we want our PTA to improve its statistics.

    Why would PTA agree that there are less than 100 million subscribers when the mobile companies themselves have been reporting fake numbers in their lust for numbers and numbers at the cost of distoriting ARPUs.

    Why expect high standards from the regulator alone…regulator also has to score numbers in front of the government just like the Mobile CEOs who have been or wanted to get extension in their tenuresfrom thier board.

    Sab chalta hai meray bhaai sab chalta hai….

  • It is flaming question worldwide
    In India recently they done survey on specific date and 30 % numbers were inactive.For Pakistan it may go to 40%
    Simple solution is donot count SIMs as u can notice that they are claiming “subscriber” and subscriber should be a human :)
    They should count subscribers who are using cellular services and dont count them multiple times even they have 5 SIMs
    Our 69% population is in villages and 51% of this village popolulation are women.By no mean 50% of villager women have cell phone
    PTA should consider demography before claiming

  • It could be like below
    Total number of subscriber = 70 Million
    Total cellular connections = 100 million

    it makes more sense :)

  • im 16 years old n im using 2 sim cards on my father cnic, as well as my sister too.. so its just a wrong information to aamir…

  • “Moreover, as a matter of fact, it is technically impossible to have 100 million subscribers in Pakistan with 79 million CNIC holders.”

    a user can have 10 connections on one CNIC at one operater = 10 x 5 (Operaters) = 50 Connections.

    79 million (CNIC) x 50 = 3950 millions subscribers can be registered technically.

    • Incorrect.
      subscriber can only have a TOTAL of 10 connection per NIC…across ALL 5 operators…

      It is NOT 10 connections per operator per NIC.

      Divide the above number by 5 please (790 mill)

  • In my personal opinion an active subscriber should be that who loads some amount in a SIM atleast once a month.
    As i have five connections registered on my CNIC used by different persons in family.
    And regarding terrorism issue i must say that terrorists are not stupid they can easily get CNIC information of any random CNIC with the level of corruption here in pakistan, u can get CNIC info

  • Although I am associate with Telco but the fact is that company’s itself pushing to its sales team to do fake sales, as end of the day from top to bottom all senior positions are on stakes if they do not produce numbers.

  • Counting the number of CNICs is not sufficient for counting mobile phone users because there are hundreds of thousands of mobile phone users who have not registered their SIMs on their CNICs.

    Especially the case of female users is very different because most of them don’t get SIMs directly rather some male friend or relative provides SIMs to most of them.

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