A Reason to Celebrate – Pakistan Hits 100 Mln Mobile Subscriptions

celebrate-500By Malahat Rab

While Pakistan is making a history on achieving 100 million subscriptions, a large number of telecom experts (so called) and media are criticizing and questioning the credibility of the figures quoted by the industry and the Authority.

With the current situation of our economy in particular and country in general, any such achievement is neither expected nor anticipated from any other sector of the economy.

Pakistan is homeland to 165 million people spread across length and breadth of the country. The economy is not very well documented where even for population count we have ten different figures quoted by Government, Non Gov. Organizations and foreign organizations. The data scams are, for general information, a common phenomenon around the globe and even prevail in the most advanced economies.

To give our readers a precise round up of telecom sector achievements, it is one sector of the economy that has brought in a Foreign Direct Investment of over US$ 6.3 billion in last 5 years, a share of over 30% in the total FDI entering in the country (2005-2010).

The sector has contributed over Rs. 500 billion to the national exchequer in the form of taxes and duties in the last 5 years that shows over Rs. 100 billion per year to FBR. Financial size of the sector is over Rs. 357 billion. Social benefits of growth in telecom sector are known and visible to everyone as even a house maid and a laborer now communicates via Mobile.

Telecom services are the only services in the country whose prices have been reducing all this time, thus giving our burdened statesmen a reason to smile. Although telecoms cannot fill the empty stomachs but is serving as a mean to the ultimate end of earning livelihood.

Subscribers count, subscription number, SIM count and mobile density are terms that are used globally as indicators of more or less the same thing or may be to reach same number.

Organizations like International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT), Association of GSM (GSMA) and LirneAsia are concentrating their efforts on streamlining these parameters to define rules for subscribers, SIM and subscription count.

Around the globe, large number of European countries have gone past the penetration level of 100% and some countries in Asia also claim to have penetration levels of over 100%. These countries include Sweden, Bulgaria, Israel, Russia, Finland, Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia and so on.

Estonia is one country whose penetration rate is over 180%. Penetration rate actually tells number of cellular subscribers per 100 people of the county and applying math gives total subscribers number in the country. It does not appeal to common sense that mobile penetration or shall we say mobile subscribers in a country are more than its total population (which of course includes children).

So over 100% penetration or having more subscribers than population tells that there remains an element of miscounting of total subscribers by every and all countries of the world.

Similarly, there are of course some factors which make it difficult for countries to reach to a solid correct subscriber number or penetration rate. These factors are one person using multiple SIMs, one SIM being used by multiple users (mobile PCO’s and rural areas where no communication is available) corporate customers who have multiple SIMs, (generally its 20 SIMs on one company’s name) children under the age of 18 years (who have no NICs thus no record).

Therefore there is as such no formula or rule of thumb defined so far to exactly calculate actual subscriber number if total SIM count is known. i.e. for every one person we take two or three SIMs.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) maintains a database of all telecom indicators and a full directorate is designated for collecting (Local) and disseminating (Local, International) all and every data related to Pakistan telecom sector.

The authentic and cross checked data available with PTA related to all telecom indicators is since year 2000 till now. All the data which PTA collects is taken from the primary sources e.g. operators, Federal Board of Revenue, Ministry of Finance etc. and according to international standards kept for data authenticity, data collected from primary source has minimum margin of error. In order to remain current with latest developments in ICT indicators PTA officials are also sent for professional development courses on indictaors (ICT).

Since Active Subscription has been an important and critical parameter around the world, companies, regulators and ministries have been working on it very seriously. In this regard, a tailored definition according to the requirements and availability of data is formed and implemented accordingly by operators, regulators etc around the world.

Regulators collect data according to it and operators provide data according to it.

In case of Pakistan, PTA conducted a study on calculating Active Subscription and floated a consultation paper in the industry, with recommended definition for Active Subscribers, for comments and suggestions (same is available on PTA website for viewing).

In this regard after deliberation and discussions a standard definition was mutually agreed and approved by the Authority.

The operators were asked to implement the definition and provide the Active Subscribers data to PTA on the basis of that definition. Later a certificate for implementation of definition and provision of data on that definition was also requested from operators (all have provided).

Now PTA along with huge number of other indicators, also collects data of Active Subscribers from operators, who provide them according to the definition. While implementing the Active subscriber’s definition, operators have gone through a process of data cleaning in which Inactive subscribers were chucked out of the systems of operators.

This exercise resulted in decline in the number of total active subscribers of each operator (See month-wise operator-wise subscribers on PTA website). According to the numbers that PTA receives every month the sector now holds total mobile subscription of over 100 million which is growing every month.

Therefore PTA collects data of Active Subscription from primary source, according to the approved definition based on international standards under the certificates of commitments received from all operators.

The approved definition of active subscribe:

A Subscription would be counted as “Active Subscription” if the subscription that is registered in the internal subscriber system of mobile service provider (i.e HLR) makes any revenue generating activity including Outgoing (Voice Calls, SMS, MMS), Incoming (Voices calls) and Others (Recharge activity, Roaming services, Data transmissions including GPRS/internet access, data transfers, receipt sessions), during last 90 days.

In case of no activity the subscription would be counted off from the billing system regardless of fact that subscriber has a valid balance within prescribed timeline of the credit at IN”.

Similarly for a count of Inactive subscribers, the critiques should be aware of the fact that keeping an inactive number or subscriber on the technical systems and networks of operators bear cost which obviously is unnecessary burden.

The operators in Pakistan have done marvelous job in taking mobile to every nook and corner of the country. The Government is gaining a lot in financial terms from the sector and consumers are enjoying a facility which is now a necessity at lowest tariffs (as compared to ever rising tariffs of all the necessities).

Therefore commending all our stakeholders, we endeavor to take our mobile penetration to the level of most advanced nations in the world. It does not matter how people criticize our achievement but what matters is the sense of accomplishment that we receive from the telecom consumers across the country and the international recognition of our services be it ITU or GSM association.


  • Usama Khalid

    Dear Mr. PTA, you are simply making fool of us and confirming your job in response to it. You are simply trying to entangle us with figures to avoid your incompetibility. We are never ever satisfied with you (what you have claimed above). You are only making money out of the operators and are running your DUKAAN…..

  • salman

    Mr PTA stop telling stories and do this simple and very important thing .

    ” collect data of all sim holders from mobile companies and update correct data on 668 “

  • Truth Teller

    The author wrote a VERY LONG article; and seems confused; sometime negating his own wordings.

    “The economy is not very well documented where even for population count we have ten different figures quoted by Government, Non Gov. Organizations and foreign organizations.”

    Admitting that even the figures quoted by Government are not accurate; thus we can say that the 100 Million count by PTA is obviously not accurate.

  • Obaid Saleem

    In the new world economy, the subscriber definition & operator reporting is more rational than ever. Two reasons for this:

    Reason 1:
    Since 2009, PTA has made tremendous contributions to streamline subscriber reporting.

    While PTA has consistently worked on this, the parent companies also steered ‘rationalization’ (mostly publicly listed foreign groups) due to pressures from shareholders.

    Just before the economic downturn, the winners were based on market share (maybe, inflated numbers made sense!). Now, the winners ‘make most money per subscriber’. (mathematically, the same revenue if divided on inflated subscriber base will mean the operator is a loser, which none will like to be).

    Reason 2:
    Operators also have to pay a certain recurring amount per subscriber to their network vendors. With costs now being an operator’s front line enemy, it makes more economic sense to rationalize as much as possible, to save costs.

    • Truth Teller

      Reason 2 is invalid.
      There is no such recurring amount per sub, payed to vendors by operators.

  • Hashim Nawaz

    I am fed up after reading this article, author tried to justified her job at PTA but I think instead of writing too much someone should be worried about the actual work to be done regarding estimation of the actual subscribers after having a look on this article I am surprised that author only tried to change the views of innocent citizens. can you please share with us the exact population figure?

  • Akba019

    You should stop your pro-western sentiments ruining your analysis. When you provided examples of countries with over 100 mobile phones per 100 persons, you mentioned exclusively kafir western countries and even jewish israel! Shame on you!

    Only Malaysia amongst OIC members was mentioned when it is the UAE which has the highest number of mobile phones per 100 persons in the world! At over 200 mobile phones per 100 person, UAE leads all nonmuslim countries! Add to that Maldives, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Brunei, Bahrain, and there are dozens of Muslim countries which should have been listed, but you did not list them.

    Inferiority complex of certain so-called “Muslims” vis-a-vis nonmuslims is something no politician, no statesman nor strategist can cure. Only the afflicted himself/herself must assess her/his situation independently and rectify this.

  • I think its a great achievement and new sources for highly energetic industry. Telecom is going to become a world largest industry and Pakistan also following this path, but it takes time for perfection……….so keep going on