Mobilink’s Delayed 3G Launch: A Deliberate Strategy or Due to Technical Reasons?

Mobilink-Logo

Mobilink claims that it has taken a different route than other local operators by not commercially launching its 3G service and rather offering 3G mobile internet to the customers free of charge, that is without any data or speed limit.

Its been two and half months since the auction of 3G licenses and about a month and a half since the 3G and 4G license award ceremony, but Mobilink is surprisingly unable to commercially launch the service.

As mentioned above, company claims that this free 3G service – without commercial launch – is part of a promotion.

When we asked, Omar Manzur, Head Of Corporate Communications at Mobilink, said that his company is celebrating its 20th year of operations in Pakistan and this is why they are offering free 3G services to customers in order to thank them for the trust that they have put in during the past two decades.

When asked that when these celebrations are going to end, Mobilink opted not to mention any date or time frame.

Company said that free of charge 3G service can be seen as an opportunity for customers to experience hi-speed internet before they start paying for the service.

The strategy of deliberately delaying the 3G launch – as claimed by the company – has surprized the market. Experts are clueless as to what exactly can be the aim behind such strategy.

Experts said that Mobilink – or any telecom company – can’t afford to offer services for free for this long. “It is impossible by any means. Since Mobilink a commercial entity, no business plan can allow it to keep the service free for this long”, they said.

“There are shareholders who expect return on their investments and this is no way of achieving such returns against millions dollars of license fee and network cost that company will have to bear”, said a former head of marketing for a telecom company. “Not to forget, Mobilink has posted negative growth in recent quarters”.

Technical gurus opine that its the lack of preparation that is delaying the commercial launch.

A senior network expert said that along with making your cell-sites and core-network ready for 3G network, a lot more has to be done to actually start transmitting 3G data. It requires a lot of planning, time, resources and man-power to get the network running even after its 3G ready.

According to Parvez Iftikhar, former CEO of USF and currently working as an independent telecom consultant, Mobilink was “least ready” when it got the 3G license.

Mr. Parvez said that Mobilink – or any operator for that matter – needs a lot of investment, which they will (or can) do but only gradually. “Whatever investments they’re doing now will take time to show results. There are various phases of network deployment such as ordering equipment, delivery times, installation, testing, commissioning, etc. etc and each of these phases require time and resources to get working”, explained Parvez Iftikhar.

Mr. Iftikhar thinks that Mobilink wouldn’t be able to start charging in big cities before August.

Whatever the case is, customers are the ultimate beneficiaries who are getting 3G services for free.

Competition companies, however, are naturally not pleased with Mobilink’s free 3G. They think that Mobilink should be restricted by the regulator from offering free internet as the move is hurting their businesses.

“Mobilink is the largest operator in the market and it must not be allowed to spoil the market by offering free services”, said an official of a telecom company.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, when asked, didn’t mind much about Mobilink offering free 3G services but said that it can dig-in if competition is having issues and they reach out to PTA on the matter.

Not to forget, Ufone had launched its 3G service commercially with-in 24 hours of license award ceremony. Telenor took around a week for the same, while Zong launched its 3G services after one month of license award ceremony.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK


  • I think Mobilink is not ready to launch the services.. :) as their free internet is not going up from 2Mbps download and 1Mbps Upload speeds which is not bad but at the other hand not impressive as well.

  • I am amazed to know that when PTA ceases their service for one day, Mobilink loses million of rupees. But when they are giving 3G service free, does it not a lose?

    • Voice calls and sms are used by a large proportion of the market. 3G is only used by more educated people from higher socioeconomic classes, this is a much smaller market. While I’m sure they are loosing money on 3G I’d bet its really low compared to voice and sms.

      • How you can say that 3G usage is a very small portion? Why did cellular operators spend one billion dollars? Perhaps, it is a smart game which we can’t understand.

        • and this reply of yours again proves you don’t actually know that there are very few 3G users in pakistan at the moment which is a fact! if you want to prove otherwise, please tell us a) how many total data customers are there in pakistan b) how many of these data customers have 3g enabled handsets c) if you exclude the top 5 cities, how much is the ARPU of pakistani market d) what’s the break-even number of years for 3G investment for a pakistani telco…

          let’s talk with numbers and facts buddy…let’s not just throw words around :)

          • Yeah! I know I wrote wrong comment because I wake up now. I was going to delete my comments. There are about 130 million customers in Pakistan and only 5% use their smartphone for 3G service. You know I am a Pre-Medical student, and don’t have advance knowledge of ARPU :D

            • well good…at least you acknowledged you’re at fault…thanks! :) very unlike the other Aamir (the admin of this page) who isn’t willing to acknowledge he isn’t passing around the correct information

  • I think it is good strategy , they have yet not covered the all areas of cities where they are offering services yet, so its good. They don’t have 3G in my office area in ISB nor in my home area in rwp cantt. So i can’t really benefit from free 3g offer.

  • Well it is true , their speed is not consistent , in day time i only got 1-2mbps but in night when traffic is minimum i got 700-800kbps download

  • Mobilink is completely ready for charging 3G services, it’s just a different strategy they are following.

    • Very good marketing strategy by Mobilink. Its a simple technique to fetch customers very fastly in a short period of time. Mobilink already gives free 2.5G internet for 1 year 2 years before.

      • and customers will leave the network the day they will start charging. they are even considering now to move to paid services instead of patchy free 3g

    • Mobilink has capped it at 2mb during the free trial period…they will probably offer higher speeds at higher price once they launch commercially…3G packages are usually speed + volume based

      • Getting 6.9Mb/sec speed in ISB, and 4Mb/sec speed in Johar Town, LHR. Therefore, your statement is incorrect. Heard from friends, that they’re getting over 8Mb/sec in DHA Phase II, KHI. No idea which city in Pakistan are you talking about.

        • i was getting un capped speed but last month thats changed and suddenly i cant pass over 1 mb.
          gulshan block 9. so here you go, it does capped here and there.

        • maybe they’re testing different speeds in different areas before they launch different speed based packages…but in general they have capped it at 2mbps on most sites…you may go ahead an confirm it with mobilink’s commercial data team sitting in the f8 head office in islamabad :)

          • You have too much time for an international consultant offering services to European telecom operators.

            I wonder why are you saving Mobilink’s face on a small website like ProPakistani when you should be earning around $1500 a day?

            Its time to stop lying now sir.

            • Aamir it’s alright if you get it wrong sometimes so please don’t be defensive and stop approving my comments on this page…clearly what you said in the article isn’t the complete picture and now that someone has pointed it out you’re getting all defensive…i do respect propakistani for bringing us quick news about telcos in pakistan and I’ve been a follower for a long time so I do check out the website at least once a day…that been said doesn’t mean you lead people in the wrong direction by quoting “telecom experts”…so may I ask again, who are these “telecom experts” that you’re referring to in your article? your experts obviously are too narrow minded to look at the bigger picture…sorry to say that…it would just be better if you’re open to ideas and opinions instead of sticking to your version of ‘expert opinion’…as to who I am and where my claims are coming from…I’ve worked in the marketing teams of three Pakistani telcos over the past several years before moving into consultancy and perhaps I’ve more accurate sources of information since I actually know and talk to the people who are making these strategies, tariffs, etc. in the head offices of these telcos…and come on we all know how propakistani is getting confidential information from most telcos…someone would have probably sued you for some of your articles and your sources of getting information if you were based in Europe/US so let’s get this straight….anyways…I’m not saying propakistani is total trash as I already said I have been an old follower…just saying that your “version” of things isn’t always the best and accurate so please be open to other views and opinions…thanks!

  • I’m amazed as to who are these telecom experts that are saying a telco can’t offer free services for that long…strategy has a lot more than just quick profits to it…they’re building a larger base of data customers by having free 3G…once they have a good number of data customers they’re go into a commercial launch and earn a lot more revenue than other telecoms…there’s a reason other telcos are not happy with mobilink’s strategy because they know mobilink is being smart about it….otherwise why would other telcos have a problem if mobilink was losing revenue :) propakistani guys…please don’t pick your “telecom experts” who are just random people walking on the street near a telco’s head office :) that’s all I have to say

    p.s. I am an international telecom consultant working with telcos in europe and the middle east…and I’ve closely watched the whole 3G licensing and roll-out process in Pakistan

    • good to see there’s someone sensible out here…yeah propakistani can post really stupid things sometimes that they try to cover up with “xyz experts”

    • No doubt you are working with European telcos. Dynamics in Pakistan are altogether different sir.

      In this country customers change their operator every 2 months to use MNP incentives.

      • yes there is a bunch of customers who change the operator every 2 months to enjoy the ‘SIM lagao’ dormancy offers…but there is really nothing you can do with those customers…they will just be on the network for free incentive and then go to another operator to enjoy free incentive…that has nothing to do with free 3G :) maybe mobilink wants to temporarily boost their subscriber base by keeping such ‘freebie’ customers on the network and earn non-data revenue from them – so that’s also a strategy :)

        • I can tell you its a short-term benefit, ah well not even benefit if you consider the opex.

          Only a blind man will suggest such a plan. No offence, its just my opinion and you can differ.

          • or maybe they will offer 3G for free for the rest of your life…most of the data customers will switch to mobilink and mobilink will cover up for the revenue loss from data through voice/sms/etc…a data customer doesn’t only consume data, there is other revenue to look at as well :) plus are you are mr. admin, you know how many 3G customers are there in Pakistan and those who are, are all relatively better ARPU customers…voice revenue will continue to dominate the Pakistani market for quite a few years to come…if you only look at the data revenue stream, then the business case for breaking even of 3G license+hardware+overheads is at least 15 years for any Pakistani telco…so does it make sense to just grab only 3G revenue at cannibalize other revenues (voice, churn, etc.)? be smart about it…think out of the box :)

            • You have lost me sir.

              What you are trying to imply is a new science that I am unaware of. Giving away free data service and earning through voice / SMS?

              Sir, I request you to kindly go through local and global telecom trends. Also have a look at balance sheets to Mobilink for last 2-3 quarters to get a clearer picture.

              Just a friendly advise, keep yourself busy with European operators only, Pakistani market isn’t your type.

              • as you yourself said….european market is different from paksitani
                market…hence global trends don’t apply to the low arpu pakistani
                market :) so here’s an example:
                customer X is a new potential
                customer who will give Rs2 in voice revenue and Rs0.5 in data
                revenue…if you charge him for data revenue, you will earn Rs2.5 but
                there are chances that this customer will rather go an operator that
                offers free data services to save his Rs0.5…the other operator (who is
                offering free data) will earn only Rs2 instead of Rs2.5 (because the
                operator is not charging for data)…so from an operator’s perspective,
                would you earn

    • Forst sensible comment on the whole topic .totally agreed with u brother . Mostly people are jealous bcoz others are charging and mobilink is giving free.. and all the operators are giving 3G coverage in patches .

    • You are saying that they’re building a larger base of data customers by having free 3G. Is this data not useful for other operators? It means Mobilink is giving free 3G service, I buy a 3G phone and use their free 3G service. It also means that Mobilink is helping the people buy a 3G smart phone – the larger the 3G phone, the bigger the revenue.What will be happen if Mobilink introduces expensive packages than Telenor and Zong?. It depends on packages.Thus, we cannot say anything before the time. If they offer smart packages then I absolutely agree what you said.

      • well you’re right…but they also benefit from a large data base…so do
        the other operators….one way is for some operator to come destroy the
        industry from revenue perspective (not customer perspective) like zong
        did when it entered the market with low prices and everyone had to
        compete and lower their prices as well…result was a negative impact on
        the whole industry from a pure commercial perspective (again I’m not
        talking about a customer’s perspective here)…the other way is that the
        companies engage in ‘healthy competition’ that doesn’t end up hurting the industry….the first such step they took together in many years
        was the implementation of call setup charges (which is bad from customer
        perspective and also against competition laws) but they realized they
        are all losing out because they had engaged in unhealthy competition for
        years.

  • If mobilink is so caring of its customers, why is it so selective regarding coverage? A case in point is G-10, Islamabad. Almost all surrounding areas are covered! Whats the strategy? Are there no users or too many users?

    • you can raise that point against every telco…every telco has their ‘gap’ areas within cities where they are offering 3G services…it’s the same in developed countries of Europe as well…you don’t get 3G or 4G everywhere…really depends on a number of factors…number of data users…how important is 3G to the users in that area (read as: will they churn if not given 3G coverage)…how much will the equipment cost to cover that area…can the base station support 3G hardware or the old hardware will also have to be replaced first…etc. etc. Coverage is going to increase with time…if you’re not aware, after the 3G auction the government imposed additional taxes on 3G hardware…so if a telco had a budget of having 100 3G sites, now they can only afford maybe 80 3G sites within the same budget :)

      • Thanks for the detailed explanation! Get your point! However, i fail to understand why atleast two operators (ufone & zong) are providing excellent coverage in G-10), telenor providing almost no 3g coverage( although g-10 is depicted as 3g covered on telenor’s website) & mobilink preferring to defer coverage?

    • G10 covered yesterday . My cousin living in G10 receiving full signals in g10 from yesterday evening .and enjoying good speed on H+ .

      • I have also used mobilink 3g here in g-10/1 several time. However it is available randomly at different times of day. Normally edge service is active. Agree with your argument though, although my phone shows dropped signals, speed is good. I sometimes guess that i must be recieving spilled 3g coverage from a nearby tower in a covered area. My previous argument is based upon G-10 missing in the 3g coverage areas mentioned on mobilink’s website! F-10, G-9 & G-11, that surround G-10 are covered! I fail to understand why G-10 was left out. I am getting good 3g coverage by both ufone & zong, extremely poor coverage by telenor ( getting coverage only on terrace of my house & no where else) & random coverage by mobilink!

  • if they are delaying there commercial launch.. there has to be some reason.. they are hold the most of market share.. this is a strange move of their side but who knows what is happening internally.. maybe they will come up with all the best packages with no speed limit but affordable prices?? who knows. so far only Telenor is the only operator with some-what “okay” 3g bundles.. 8 GB is not alot to many but once you start using it.. its not enough.. most ppl will be able to get a mounth out of it tho

    • 3G is a secondary source of internet connection not a primary. 3G is not for download a game Battlefield 4 rather it’s for a map, chatting etc.

      • XDXD i don’t think i will try to download it over 3g.. it will cost too much.. i know but if 3g becomes common on coming months i will be using youtube on my cell phone instead of my computer also twitch… x3 that will drain most of the volume..

  • aoa mein smjta ho mobilink apnay customer bara rahe ha per 3g lounch karay ghe 2g ka ka b internet 1 year free raha tha

  • Fail in hyderabad.
    Speed really sux sometimes 4mb sometimes 1mb fluctuauion btw 0.01kb to 6mb.
    Bts is located at my neighbors place.

  • Service is not available to my area officially, but i can see the mobilnk 3g service while i search the networks but cannot connect to it as it says unable to connect any suggestion ?


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