Ever since the WiMAX industry saw its first commercial roll-out courtesy of Wateen, which was arguably the biggest commercial WiMAX network in the world, it has not enjoyed the glory the investors may had anticipated. Situation is not different for other WiMAX operators too, though they are making some money but balance sheets are not that catchy.
Reason is: We, as Pakistanis, are not used to pay for data services – probably because paying for data services is a secondary stage that comes after the primary understanding of what data services actually are.
When Mobilink launched its WiMAX services under the marquee ‘Mobilink Infinity’, it was termed as the 10th best launch by the WiMAX Forum. Quite an achievement, right? To me, on the other hand, it appeared like a cart about to sail down a steep unobstructed path straight into the slums because:
- Common users did not have a hint of what WiMAX is; they did not care and they should not have cared too!
- To a good educated majority it seemed to be as just another internet connection able enough to take them to their Yahoo inboxes
- Our marketing was as un-educating as anything you might think of
This argument is valid for Qubee too. Along with WiMAX providers other broadband operators kept venturing in, for instance PTCL released its EVO connections, and the market grew tougher. It became gruesome for the operators to strive for their share of customers and survive the brutality.
Mobilink perhaps did not try getting serious with the situation; it did not look ready to give Infinity a refresher. Things worsen so much that the sales and operations staff had to rely on door-to-door sales services to register few bits on the work sheets.
Those working in Infinity’s teams are worried for their future; for the future of WiMAX; for the return of time and energy they have put in thus far. We have heard that WiMAX arm of Mobilink is certainly not doing well financially, and it is evident from its long awaited spread out in Lahore and Islamabad – which is yet to happen. The parents (Orascom) are a little offhanded about their child and are reluctant to float in some cash for obvious reasons.
Industry, as a whole, has started to show some sort of a shape:
- Wi-tribe rising above all as the most rigorous – if not efficient – service provider in terms of its customer support and problem resolution services. Though limited data packages remain their biggest constraint when compared to Wateen.
- PTCL cashing its status of a blind king and utilized its deployed network, established lines and age old customers to grasp a decent figure of subscribers
- Abundance of managerial issues, financial mishaps and having more than one core product, Wateen never managed to shine the way it could have
- Qubee trying to expand
- Mobilink Infinity…waiting for the right time
Broadband industry is perhaps waiting for that alleged data boom in the country and all shareholders are saving their money for that time.
One may argue that regulatory bodies as well as service operators should have been more pragmatic on their marketing, educational and sales fronts rather than deducing their bits of satisfaction by registering the country as the first good-for-nothing WiMAX hub.