Mobile Internet: Are we Back to Square One?

Not long ago, we had 3.7 million broadband subscriptions in the country when PTCL’s EVO used to be the only mobile broadband solution available to the nation.

While we had WiMAX, DSL, Fiber and other broadband channels available for a while, infrastructural insufficiency contributed to only marginal areas (mainly urban) having access to broadband internet services. And even those who had broadband access, faced quality of service issues thanks to old-age copper media.

That was a time when we, here at ProPakistani, used to get tons of emails each day from users inquiring about the best ISP available in their areas or other specific needs they used to have back then, such as portable internet connection with fairly huge data limits and so on.

Then there came a time when our Facebook timelines were flooded with speedtests, H+ signs on our mobile screens, jubilation and contentment from the nation on finally having an internet connection that we could rely upon.

This was when 3G/4G was launched in Pakistan.

Down the line, for few months, we kept hearing stories about new packages, 3G launches in new cities, offerings and the race between telcos had begun, mainly for two things:

  • Number of 3G customers
  • Number of cities with 3G coverage

This time of well-being didn’t last long.

Today, in April 2016 — exactly after two years of 3G/4G launch in Pakistan — quality of service for 3G/4G networks has gone down to a level where people have stopped relying on their mobile internet and are actively looking for alternate options.

PTCL’s EVO is out of discussion when you talk about reliability.

On the other hands, if you look at 3G/4G networks, then mobile phone companies with 5MHz spectrum are suffering more than others.

12 million customers (7.2 Million for Telenor and 4.8 Million for Ufone) are back to GPRS/EGDE era as their mobile internet only works when all mobile phone users connected to same cell-site are either sleeping or are busy watching India-Pakistan cricket match. Otherwise there’s no chance of any browsing, let alone the downloading.

While PTA’s QoS survey suggest that Ufone, Mobilink and Zong have increased their average 3G speeds, our conversation with readers tells a completely different story.

And frankly PTA’s QoS survey at selected location in 3-4 major metropolitan out of several hundred cities can’t depict the real state of network quality,

Our discussions with officials of mobile phone companies also confirms that Telenor and Ufone have over-used their spectrum and are now compromising on quality of service. Ufone had thought of refarming their spectrum, but reportedly they have dropped the idea.

With no further auction in foreseeable future, Zong and Mobilink are soon going to join their counterparts as customers are only growing with internet pipe remaining the same in size.

This leaves us wondering if PTA is really looking into such things and if it has any plans to get a better user experience to millions of mobile internet users?

You can participate in below poll in telling us if Quality of Service really decreased?

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

  • I dont know if people here remember me. When Zong launched 4G i was one of the biggest advocates and for quite a few months.

    I also use a zong MBB

    Now looking at the packages 20GB for 3500 ( used to be 30 GB) i have stopped subscribing to a big package on the phone. Just a 4gb one. and have 50gb on the mbb. Both hardly give me LTE speeds of over 5Mbps. And this isin Islamabad. IMAGINE!!! Sadly…these are still the best speeds.

    What started as one of the best LTE speeds in the world of over 50Mbps – the service is now destroyed. Specially when multiple people are online streaming cricket matches.

    • Ufone has different scenario. Its 3g usage is almost impossible coz first of all you will never get H+ in almost any area of Karachi and if luckily you get 3g network you won’t be able to even browse a single webpage, it gets stuck and if you refresh over n over than hardly a webpage opens. And most of the times u just get edge E sign and browsing in this mode is near to impossible. N what to talk of 3g n edge on ufone network, one can not even make calls. Everytime u dial a number specially ufone’s number it says “aapke matluba number se is waqt rabta mumkin nahi” or other recordings and after a while u get a message ” yeh number ab network pe maujoood hai” then u dial and again ur call doesn’t go through. So this is how ufone’s network has become. And when i tried to complain at their helpline and told him the pathetic network situation. They totally refused and said no one has complaint about the network, network is running smooth n sound, it’s maybe ur Mobile’s fault. I know dozens of ufone users who are facing same issues with ufone but the company doesn’t bother to improve service and on contrary making fool outa people by telling them that everything is perfect.
      This Article and survey is the need of the hour.

  • I totally agree with Aamer. I am a Zong user both on mobile and MBB. But the speed i receive is pathetic. several times i complained to Zong but they every time they came out with a lame excuse. I even complained to PTA, but nothing happened. I will point my fingers to Govt. Their inconsistent policies led us to this point. Every now and then they are squeezing users. How on Earth they can justify the amount of tax levied. This discourage new users resulting in less revenue to celcos which again discourage them for modernization of equipment’s and purchasing additional bandwidth.

  • I’m a Telenor postpaid user, who had unlimited data (4GB in actual) for years even before we had 3G. Now for the past couple of months I’ve hardly ever used even 50 MB out of my 4GB data cap because it hardly ever works. I’ve given up on Telenor and I’m only stuck because porting out of a postpaid connection isn’t really easy.

    I’ve been using a Zong MBB device on the side for a couple of months now. It started great and I used to get speeds between 20 Mbps and 35 Mbps in various parts of Lahore. Now downlink speeds seem to drop down to 5 Mbps around the weekend while uplink still floats around 15 Mbps. And all this is on top of my already existing fixed line unlimited PTCL broadband DSL.

    Unless PTA auctions more spectrum soon, we’ll have to give up on the dream of having high bandwidth, high capacity internet.

    • I was on Ufone Postpaid and as you rightly point out porting out is a pain. The most easiest (tried and tested method) is to switch over to prepay, use the phone, eat up your balance and then port out. Works well, I just switched to Zong with that approach.

  • The problem is with PTA’s set Qos for 3g / 4g, as per PTA 3g networks minimum provides 256 kbps connection and 1 Mbps for 4g lte connection, so users complaining about slower speed to PTA or mobile service provider are wasting their time since slower services are in compliance with rules and regulations set by PTA

  • I wish warid would have stayed and bought some spectrum for broadband services….. It never let down its customers in its services

    • haha..its still the best… i fail to understand what these operators mean to say when they term HD calling while on 3G….. if some network has improved its usual calling after warid, its only zong….rest simply pathetic especially telenor

  • My question, is the last mile solution (i.e. 3G/4G) the only problem here?
    I feel not.

    I have Warid as well as Zong. Often times, I run speed test to their servers in Karachi (from Islamabad), and I get upto 10Mbps peak down-link throughput. However, when I try to open FB or Gmail, actual data transfer is zilch. This means that there are often other problems at the back end. I think our internet gateways are also choked at peak times.

    As far as my general feeling about reliability… not reliable.

  • Warid LTE has been almost completely without any issue for me in Rawalpindi/Islamabad ever since the day it launched. I don’t download torrents on it though.

  • Zong is by far the best
    even though I haven’t used it
    but experts say Zong does not rely on PTCL’s backbone
    which is why their internet is the fastest

  • the poll is misleading….”Quality of Service really decreased?” I’m a Zong user and happy with there service

  • Using Zong 4G mifi device with 50GB in 2000 PKR, Speed is not bad. Bandwidth is more than enough if you don’t watch too many videos online.

  • I live in a village and only telenor is offering 3G here, the whole village uses the service. The ironic part is that you will get better speed from other operators offering 2G than the 3G offered by Telenor.

  • ”Otherwise there’s no chance of any browsing, let alone the downloading”……. Our ‘honorable blogger’ must be using some unworldly gadget which doesn’t browse @ 5Mbps :,). Why don’t you start your own Telco so we can come out of the GPRS/Edge era, finally?

    A 2nd grader can understate better than Aamir Sahab. Apko payroll pay rakhnay se behtar hai Mobilink Aamir Liaquat ko rakh le. Atleast he can defend himself without being made fun of.

    An just FYI, your petty little blog does not set the network perception, QoS does. All your blog does is attract telco employees who rant and troll you just for their own fun.

      • AAMiR Bhai ap ki bat b theek ha or Amir Liaqat b kisi had tak theek hein , actually me ny is bat pay kafi analysis kia ha , Asal mein bat uy ha k Urban areas mein Telenor ke service waqy e kafi weak ha , lekin rural areas mein sub say achi service telenor ke he ha , punjab mein all district mein aana jana hota ha mera or sub say achi service telenor ke he hoti ha lekin jb city enter hota hoon to signal weak ho jaty hein , to final words uy hein k telenor is best for rural areas of the country, urban areas mein to baqi sub he theek hein including warid LTE

  • I wonder who voted for “Yes and I am Ufone User” LOL! Ufone employes or people just having packages and never using them ? or maybe someone just mistakenly selected it :D

  • I’m Zong user MBB user . And I’m still loving their blazing fast speeds. I mean they may not be as good as they used to be when 3g/4g first launched but I still get on average over 15 Mb/s download and same upload speed in Lahore and Sialkot and I believe this definitely is the best speed we can get in Pakistan. Even the DSL connections by ptcl are not capable of providing such speeds because of poor infrastructure

  • Oh man! that sounded so depressing the way you put that in 1st few paragraphs..on other hand, Larkana main to ufone I is enjoying even though almost half of 900k people there have ufone & are constantly on the web searching for Absurdities & banal content all the time..:)

  • For Ufone & Telenor, the dichotomy is of having a small spectrum as well as insufficient Backbone & International Bandwidth. For Zong & Mobilink however, the bottleneck is inappropriate backhauling coupled with smaller international BW of Pakistan. Things will improve in a year or two.

  • Quoted from article “PTCL’s EVO is out of discussion when you talk about reliability.”

    I don’t think so. I am using EVO Wingle, and I find it reliable with good speed always.

      • Esi bat nahi hai yar… see kisi area me Evo 1st class chalti hai to kisi me bekar, kisi area me Zong achi chalti hai to kisi me mari hoi. Also it depends on your nature of work. Agar apko bas normal browsing karni hai, emails check, facebook etc to 1MB bhi buht hai.

        I get 1.5Mb most of the time on EVO jo k buht hai mere liye.

        • Good ☺
          Mere pas 0.5mb ati thi aur PTCL ki lajawab service se mutasir ho k 3 din mein he evo bech di thi, mere liye wo daraona khwab tha ?

          • u know what evo is cdma technology. their services got a huge hit when they launched charji services (LTE) on 6 mhz bandwidth. since that day their 3g (CDMA) service has become unusable.

  • IMHO, Zong is the best option available and one can totally rely on their internet connection. However, Zong still needs to do a lot of work on the GSM area.

  • Okay just to put things in perspective… I work with a Telecom company in the middle east where as per google the total population is 2.1 million… Pakistan on the other hand has 182 million people. In Pakistan, Ufone and Telenor both have 5 Mhz band and Mobilink and Zong have 10 Mhz … while Zong also possess a LTE band… which no other operator has.

    Over here, we have 4 x 5Mhz 3G bands and 2×10 Mhz + 1×20 Mhz LTE band…and rumours are adding up of new spectrum in the LTE space… :)

    Ofcourse, internet speed in Pakistan sucks…. reason? Roughly I have to pay PKR 1500 Rs / month for a 5 GB package…. compare that to packages offered by Pakistani Telecoms…
    Also 5GB on a lightning fast LTE network where speeds can go up to 150 Mbps…. is not much … on a 5 Mhz band… it would be much difficult to utilize the 5GB limitation…

    The problem is not with the ISPs (Telcos) … its a basic ROI question… are the telcos making enough money to invest in new spectrum and is the environment in pakistan investment friendly? Just was reading the other day about how FDI investment on Telecom equipment has decreased while investment on mobile phones is increasing…

    We need to have better ROI for the Telcos to invest in the industry to boost 3G / 4G speeds for the end user… and thats the bottom line

  • Speeds are the least of the concerns, PTCL / Wateen even though are the worst when it comes to internet speeds but are very reliable networks being clean on all accounts with major services in the world, as their IP are not considered suspicious mostly. Since i have started using Zong LTE i have noticed that its IPs are flagged at many IP sensors ( either due to a small number of total IPs or due to bad configuration and lesser attention to keeping a clean status with internet authorities and loose policies ). Even the biggest monster in the world of web (CloudFlare) which already has a major impact on browsing and uses Google Captcha V2 ( I am not a robot, version ) keeps constantly asking to verify not being a robot. Which rarely happens with PTCL / Wateen.

    Its most probably the users of the networks who delve in suspicious activities too, but overall its a responsibility of the network authorities to induce proper policies and take action against them.

    Considering all this, i really wonder that if these new networks are safe to be used. They may have better speeds but what point is there if they are not safe to use, i wonder how much data leaks there are in their implementations.

  • I am facing same issue for cloud flare captcha. This problem started from last 2 weeks. What could be done to fix it ? Can i buy live ip from zong to fix that issue ?

    • There is no real solution at user’s end for this i this. This can only be solved by the ISP itself & as far as a static IP is concerned, that’s not available by zong i think.

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