By Samia Rehman
Thursday, 7th February 2008 marks the day when WiMax Broadband Internet was officially rolled out in Pakistan. The launch of WiMax wireless internet in Pakistan positioned Pakistan as the first country to roll out WiMax services throughout the whole country in the world.
This milestone was achieved by Wateen Telecom, an Abu Dhabi Group venture that began its operation in Pakistan in 2007.
Soon after WiMax wireless internet connection was rolled out, rumors of the service facing severe setbacks began floating in the air and year 2009 was termed the ‘make or break year for WiMAX’.
It was also then that no further expansion of WiMAX was foreseen by Mobilink Infinity which had limited its services to Karachi only. Whereas, Wateen and wi-tribe maintained a stagnant yet active position in all major cities of Pakistan.
Not only was the expansion of WiMAX services a problem but the easy and inexpensive availability of various kinds of wireless internet connections also gave WiMAX a stiff competition in the market. The paradigm shift from traditional dial up internet connections to broadband internet and further more to high speed WiMAX wireless internet connections was nearly impossible then.
On an organizational level, the competition began to stiffen when Wateen met with competition in the market with wi-tribe and Mobilink Infinity moving towards launching WiMAX services with competitive packages, giving the general population a variety of broadband internet services in Pakistan.
In 2010, the severity of competition peaked when Qubee, a UK based company wholly owned by Augere Group deployed WiMAX in Pakistan with an approximate of $70 million investment. Despite all the intense competition, according to a survey based on quality service conducted by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority earlier this year, Wateen topped in overall standings for all broadband wireless internet providers in the country.
It was in the year 2010 when Pakistan reached its first milestone of over 1 million broadband subscribers in the country. But what came as a surprise was the number of WiMAX subscribers which had reached the 306,665 mark and becoming the second most popular wireless internet connections after DSL.
By 2012, the total number of broadband subscribers in Pakistan topped to 1.7 million out of which 459,790 amounted to the number of WiMAX subscribers.
WiMAX Forum President Declan Byrne said that,
“WiMAX technology has achieved a penetration rate of 50% of all broadband connections in urban centres in Pakistan. This success of the technology is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. I am delighted to come to Pakistan and look forward to returning to continue supporting the success of WiMax operators in the country.”
Undoubtedly, the growth of WiMAX and its stronghold in the market cannot be pared down. It is inevitable that the future lies in wireless broadband internet connections since they can substitute fixed broadband (DSL) through mobile internet and wi-fi hotspots.
The WiMAX technology is definitely a serious competitor in the future for broadband in Pakistan since it has the ability to roll out broadband very quickly so operators can speedily expand their footprints if things work out with telcos. Not to ignore the fact that the highest penetration of WiMAX globally is witnessed in Pakistan, with WiMAX being nearly one in every three wireless connections.
Looking into the future prospects, if the need for wireless broadband is established, there is a huge market for WiMAX subscriptions in each of the 27 million households in Pakistan. In Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi alone, the penetration possibility hovers over 7 million households.
WiMAX can reach to its peak potential if the need of wireless and mobile broadband internet becomes prevalent in the economy. Just like how dial up internet has become an old school adage, no sooner than a couple of years will DSL also come in line with it. It’s just a matter of the need of mobile connectivity to take its’ peak in Pakistan.
Writer is a social media enthusiast who loves to explore technology with special focus on IT and telecom. You can reach her on twitter here @samiabr