Over 80 million mobile phone connections in Pakistan were forcefully put on radio silence for over 40 hours in two days, after a directive was issued by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to all cellular operators of Pakistan to suspend mobile phone service amid security threats on 9th and 10th of Muharram i.e. November 24th and 25th of 2012.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had cited directions from Interior Ministry and asked operators to help the Law Enforcement Agencies to avoid any terrorism incident in Muharram.
Industry experts tell ProPakistani that over 80 million mobile phone subscribers or 70 percent of subscribe base came under the cellular blackout leaving the usual day-life in Pakistan on a halt.
Almost 3 million wireless (WLL) connections were also silenced, out of which 600,000 were used for wireless broadband services (including EVO, Nitro, WorldCall and others).
While exact and accurate figure for losses is being worked out, estimates suggest that over Rs. 1.5 billion were lost in revenues for cellular companies and around Rs. 500 million loss to government in taxes.
Most of Pakistan was left on the shoulders of mere 3 million landline phones, which by design and numbers aren’t enough to meet the magnitude of telecom demands of Pakistani citizens.
Humongous amount of problems were faced by masses, details of which are hard to narrate in writing. It would be enough to mention here that people with-in Pakistan and abroad were left with no communication channel to connect with their family and friends.
Emergency situations, medical urgencies, severe importunities, businesses, collaborations and friendships ended up without communication and might have caused lives and monetary damages beyond limits.
Even worse, it is feared that this norm of suspending cellular services will only get persistent. Industry experts are venting that government will keep pulling communications plugs on every religious/national occasion to save its face. They suspect that cellular suspensions will become a tool that government might use for political gains during upcoming elections.
Uncertainty in telecom sector – thanks to other similar moves by government to curb the industry – is going to affect investments, jobs, national economy, liaison, vendors, marketing & media and everything else that depends on telecoms directly or indirectly.
This all is happening at a time when government is planning 3G license auction in next three months. It is hard to comprehend the plan and strategy government has in mind to keep the sector lucrative and running.
Hard time has begun. Telecom drive in coming days is going to remain equally tough for operators and rough for subscribers.
Having said this all, PTA – the authority responsible for keeping the industry profitable and subscribers protected – is doing nothing but acting as a postmaster to keep conveying Rehman Malik’s directives to cellular companies.