ProPakistani recently got a chance to sit down with Zong’s Director Corporate Affairs and Company Spokesperson, Maham Dard.
The ensuing discussion ranges from Zong’s plans in Pakistan to how it plans to take advantage of the opportunity represented by CPEC and is presented below.
Question: Zong (CMPak) is the pioneering International setup of CMCC. What factors do you think convinced CMCC to invest in Pakistan & how has CMCC contributed to Zong’s success?
Maham Dard: I think the most important reason for CMCC to invest in Pakistan is the deep rooted tie between the government of China and the government of Pakistan, which has now translated into strong people-to-people relationships as well.
In that context, it was one of the fundamental priorities of China Mobile Communications Corporation to provide Pakistan and Pakistanis with the most technologically advanced Telecommunication solutions. Communication networks are the backbone of any economy and it is imperative for a developing economy to establish advanced networks to the benefit of the people at large.
Connectivity is an enabler of economic development and progress. So CMCC choosing to invest in Pakistan is an indication of its intention to assist Pakistan in the development of its communication network and infrastructure in addition to helping Pakistan embark on a path of progress and prosperity to impact and improve the lifestyle of a common Pakistani.
We leverage heavily from the research and experience of our parent company on the technological front. China mobiles communication corporation is the largest Telecom service provider in the world and is perhaps the only cellular network that provides uninterrupted, reliable coverage not only through tunnels, highways, sky scrapers or elevators but also on top of Mount Everest. This has enabled us to provide cutting edge, state-of-the art services to our subscribers and has contributed heavily to our growth.
Question: How many cities are covered with 3G and the 4G network?
Maham Dard: Currently, our 4G coverage extends to over 300 cities of Pakistan & 3G coverage extends to over 350 cities and this number is increasing day by day.
Zong has the highest number of 4G sites in the highest number of cities which testifies our commitment to provide a stable, affordable and reliable network to our customers.
By the end of this year, our 3G & 4G site count will extend to over 10,500 sites, enabling a faster, wider and deeper voice and data quality experience for the users. We are far ahead of our competition in 3G and 4G coverage, capacity as well as a stable and reliable voice service.
Question: How is Zong planning to capitalize on the opportunity presented by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?
Maham Dard: First we have to understand that CPEC is not just a road. It is a set of multiple opportunities for us to connect all segments of the industries to be able to build an ecosystem of telecommunication, innovation and solutions.
We are working with all segments of the society to be able to make sure we translate our fastest 4G technology into connecting the people with healthcare, education, social reforms, government services, law and order ,media and many other segments of the society.
Imagine how fast and how innovative the lifestyle of a common Pakistani would be if all of the above segments are connected through 4G. This is what Zong is dreaming of, this is what we want to be able to provide, to help the country take a step with the fastest and most advanced telecommunications platform on the CPEC platform.
We are privileged to have the fastest technology, our unmatched 4G, to cater for this project, one of the biggest for Pakistan in its history!
Question: How is Zong looking at current & potential take overs in the telecommunications market?
Maham Dard: The market is “evolving” very quickly and is definitely on its way to reach new heights of innovation. The new era of telecommunication will have the data aspect advantage which would be a very clear differentiator for operators.
We believe in a fair competition, In fact we want the industry to grow together to be able to provide the ecosystem for all operators and sustain the 4G evolution in the country. 4G handsets penetration is directly related to this phenomena.
We want the industry 4G handset penetration to increase and that would be possible if more and more operators have 3G/4G technology. The more handsets are available, the more connected people will be, and that’s what supports a healthy platform for innovation, growth, evolution and transformation.
Having said this, every operator has its own business model, its own strategy, which makes it different from its competition. So as long as the takeovers, mergers or even for that matter organic growth of telcos continue to contribute to a healthy competition and a strong market, it will in fact help all operators towards a combined progression.
Question: Please share with us your investment plans down the line?
Maham Dard: CMPak has invested over USD 2 Billion since its inception. We are currently the largest 4G network in the country. In the 2013/14 3G/4G auction, we were the only operator to bid for both 3G and 4G spectrum, and accounted for 45% of the total industry auction value.
At our Annual Business Conference, which was the biggest Pakistani telecom event of the year so far, our CEO, Mr. Liu Dianfeng reaffirmed our stated commitment of adding more investment in Pakistan in the coming years by another USD $200 Million to upgrade our 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G network.
Question: What triggered high addition to your 4G subscriber base during past few months? Do you plan to get more aggressive with the strategy?
Maham Dard: Our understanding of 4G, the knowledge and research we adapt from china mobile, our parent company in keeping the best and most reliable network with the highest levels of availability coupled with the most affordable rates for our products. We have the highest penetration of 4G in the market and we are market leaders in this area because our teams understand 4G and how to use it.
We have a deep understanding of our subscribers’ needs in development of specific solutions, specific bundles at fair prices and providing coverage where our operators don’t exist. We have a very clear strategy of 4G in the years to come. We have invested heavily in our 4G infrastructure and will continue to do so in the coming year to keep this leading edge.
Question: How has the average consumer changed over the last 5 years in terms of preferences and tech savviness?
Maham Dard: The change has been phenomenal, and we are delighted to have such awareness coming to our country on a rapid pace. The average consumer now has a lot more options to choose from compared to a few years ago. Clearly, the market differentiator is the addition of high speed data and mobile internet services. Smartphone penetration has also been on the rise in Pakistan and there is an increasing tendency to shift towards data services.
With that, the application market has grown exponentially. Virtually every public and private sector of education, health, law and order, and social sector are benefiting from the advent of 4G technology.
Customers are not just more aware, they are getting increasingly data hungry and speed conscious and this is something that we are working on a daily basis, to provide the best, most affordable and a highly stable and available network to our customers.
We are working with all sectors of the local market to develop specific applications, specific solutions for our customers to be able to be more available in the international market.
Question: What is the core idea behind the new branding approach in Zong’s new TVCs?
Maham Dard: Our new brand identity is aimed to bring our brand promise of ‘A New Dream’ to life. Our new TVCs are a reflection of our commitment to provide the best quality data user experience and signifies our commitment to transform the digital lives of Pakistanis through our high speed data services.
It also capitalizes on the growing technological confidence of consumers on Zong’s super-fast 4G services, The new brand is our sentiment of providing best 4G services to a wider customer base with the best packages in the industry at the most affordable commercial rates to be able to lead the market with new and innovative products, our network and our coverage, not to mention our fastest speed.
Question: How would you comment on the level of competition in the industry right now, in 2017 ?
Maham Dard: Zong is the leader in the data services industry and we are proud to be spearheading the digital revolution in Pakistan. We have the best quality voice & data solutions at the most affordable rates for all types of our customers. We believe that we are a threat to our competition because of our superior 4G, our rapid pace of growth & 3G/4G penetration all over Pakistan.
Our coverage includes both rural and urban areas and spreads across towns where our competition doesn’t even exist. In the coming year, we will continue to add more investment to deliver more and more innovative products for our subscribers with more coverage and more capacity.
Question: What’s next for Zong after 4G?
Maham Dard: Zong is the pioneer of 4G technology in Pakistan and the 4G market in Pakistan is still developing. Over the last year, 4G subscribers have increased significantly pointing towards a greater appetite among people for fastest speeds. So our priority is to develop the strongest, fastest and widest 4G network in the country.
We will have most of our network upgraded to 4G by the end of this year however all the other operators still have a long way to go before they are able to compete with Zong’s widest coverage & fastest speeds.
As for latest technology, let me tell you, being the pioneer of 4G in Pakistan, Zong has always been at the forefront of cutting edge technology and rest assured we will continue to introduce latest telecommunications technologies in Pakistan.