3G Numbers from Telcos Become Irrelevant!

We just reported that Pakistan has crossed 4 Million 3G users. While I am truly happy to see the figures, I am somewhat concerned about the mechanism we have in place for counting active numbers of 3G subscribers.

During pre-3G era, when mobile companies had to report number of subscribers to PTA, they had to deposit SIM activation tax along with addition of each new reported subscriber. So theoretically each new subscriber used to cost mobile phone companies a sum of Rs. 250 (as SIM activation tax that varied during different periods).

PTA, then or even now, can’t cross check these figures as it doesn’t have any physical access to companies data. Hence, PTA had practically only one option and that was to rely on mobile phone companies for subscribers’ data.

Now when companies are racing for 3G subscribers’ numbers, there’s no activation tax that they have to pay and hence no monetary limitation or any other check that they have to go through for reporting 3G subscribers. They just have to tell a figure to PTA for their 3G subscribers and that’s it. No questions asked.

Since there is no check on telcos from PTA, 3G numbers have become irrelevant 

Given the situation, I think telecom companies are given a free hand in reporting numbers for 3G subscribers, and there is a possibility that they may exploit this freedom. Obviously, they won’t but what I am saying is “They can”.

Consider a operator that is standing at 5 million 3G subscriptions, don’t you think that it would want to look strong by posing that it has 10 million subscribers? That’s how it can leave a good impression on subscribers and of course the investors (more crucial for public limited companies). More stock value, better brand positioning and what not… just by reporting fake numbers; especially when no one can catch you.

Who won’t do it? Only a perfect saint.

Zong — in a company statement issued yesterday — said that it had crossed 1 Million 3G users last month, or in September 2014 (considering it is October now and last month was September 2014).

Apparently Zong took 109 days to add 866,000 3G users but added 136,000 3G users in just two days

Below is what exactly Zong’s PR read:

Lahore – 30th October, 2014:  Zong, a subsidiary of China Mobile Communications Corporation (CMCC) and Pakistan’s first and only 4G mobile service, today celebrated crossing one million ‘Super 3G’ customers, a milestone it achieved last month, at an event in Lahore.

While I am in no position to challenge this claim, let me show you how the company has proceeded with 3G subscribers.

Here are few facts for your review:

  • Zong commercially launched its services on June 12th, 2014 in Lahore and Karachi — Islamabad was added two weeks later (Link)
  • On September 28th, Zong’s CEO publicly said that his company had 866,000 3G users (Link)
  • Zong crossed 1 Million 3G Users last month (Link)
  • Timeline for Zong’s subscribers:
    • Zong had 866,000 3G subscribers on September 28th, 2014
    • Zong had 1,000,000 (one million) 3G subscribers on September 30th, 2014 (Last possible day of last month)
  • Hence:
    • Zong added 866,000 3G users in 109 days
    • Zong added another 136,000 3g users in two working days

I am not concluding anything here, neither I am saying that stats reported by Zong are fake. Rather I am leaving it to you to decide!

You can share your thoughts in below comments.

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