Recent polls on ProPakistani, offline surveys, market analysis, feedback from telecom companies, feedback from mobile phone users, early impression of telecom market relating to trial of 3G services and our personal opinion ascertains that 8 to 11 percent of mobile phone users in Pakistan are going to use 3G, during first 2 to 3 years.
After early years, or when 3G coverage will expand and adoption rate will increase, this figure may get multiplied and net addition in number of 3G subscribers may go substantially higher than the current rate.
This calculation for estimating number of 3G users with-in first two years also considered the number of smartphones in Pakistan, their relative prices and the adoption rate of technology in the country.
Affordability of 3G Services
A poll on ProPakistani revealed that 17 percent of individuals can afford 3G services even when data prices are more than Rs. 1,200 per month. A total of 7,128 respondents participated in the poll, while 17 percent of them said that they are willing to pay Rs. 1,200 per month or more for 3G services.
In fact we are certain that there would be some data plans (with monthly charge of Rs. 1,000 or lesser) that may lure larger number of mobile phone users to transit to 3G services.
Another considerable fact is that majority of mobile phone users will use 3G for browsing, skyping, chit/chatting and for usual internet needs on the go. Remember we aren’t talking about power downloading stuff such as torrents or HD movies.
This situation – if coupled with above two paragraphs — translates into an equation where 3G services are entirely affordable for larger number of audience who would want to use 3G for usual things while on the go with monthly budget of around Rs. 1,000 or more.
Not to forget, Pakistan is a very competitive market, where operators even cross their bread limits to attract the customers.
While we can hint that operators will continue to experiment with various pricing patterns during first 6-8 months, we assume that affordability won’t be an issue for Pakistani 3G user in the long run.
Quality of Service and Coverage of 3G
One has to agree that Quality of Service of cellular networks in Pakistan is in-line with global standards. In fact it won’t be wrong to say that Pakistani networks offer better quality of service than a lot of regional or even global operators. Yes, the room for betterment is always there but we don’t lack anywhere.
While 3G networks in Pakistan are just one month old, we can safely say that they aren’t below standard.
Coverage of 3G networks, however, may not get similar remarks but that’s understandable.
Operators take years to build network and if we keep the track record of Pakistani operators in mind then it can be safely said that they are going to deploy 3G network way faster than the rollout obligations set by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
If we just look at previous one month – since the auction of 3G spectrum –then at least 9 cities have already received 3G services (at least partially) or 20 percent of population has been given 3G service already.
This proposition is going to get only better and richer with time.
It merits mentioning here that 13.15 percent individuals – out of 2,738 participants who took part in a poll – said that they were over satisfied with 3G services during the trial period of last one month or so.
Another 18.22 percent considered that quality of service was average, meaning that a total of 31.37 percent mobile phone users were satisfied with the 3G services during the first month of trial duration.
Another fact that should be kept in mind is the quality of service issues associated with DSL and EVO infrastructure of PTCL, an entity that holds over 90 percent of market share in Pakistan’s broadband market.
While we need not to comment on PTCL’s performance and QoS standards, it is likely that cellular companies are only going to beat them in quality standards by notable margin.
First Time Internet Users
While it may take some time, but the day is destined to come when 3G services will reach those areas where no prior internet connectivity channel has been established so far. Such rural areas and less operable areas for wired-internet are going to be the real fruit of 3G connectivity.
Adoption rate may not only be quick there but the productivity of wireless broadband — that is set to positively impact the economy – will be the real turnout of 3G services.
While the number of 8 to 11 percent of mobile phone users — who may transit to 3G network — seems low, but it will actually translate into five times (or even more) the broadband users of what we have today.
This adoption rate will grow further in coming years when 3G coverage will expand, especially when it will hit the rural areas of the country.
With this adoption rate – which seems inevitable – we will have 12 to 15 million broadband users with-in first two years of 3G networks in Pakistan. This forecast is in-line with Plum research that is widely quoted and mentioned in local media and telecom industry of Pakistan.