Mobile phones’ import witnessed an increase of 52.37 percent in the first half (July-December) of the fiscal year 2020-2021 as it remained worth $938.83 million compared to $616.145 million during the same period last year, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
Mobile phones’ imports witnessed an increase of 82.49 percent in December 2020 as it remained $214.75 million compared to $117.68 million during the same period last year.
Overall telecom imports saw an increase of 36.80 percent during July-December 2020 when compared to the same period of last year. Total imports were recorded at $1.155 billion during July-December 2020 when compared to $844.65 million during the same period of last year while registering 59.51 percent growth in December and remained $258.88 million compared to $161.89 million during the same period of the year.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked 175,000 devices that were reported as stolen IMEIs through Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).
According to PTA documents, the legal import and local assembly of mobile devices increased from 17.2 million in 2018 to 28 million in 2019—an exponential jump of 62.7 percent. During the first nine months of 2020, legal import and local assembly of mobile devices touched 24 million.
This is a phenomenal number of imports, particularly in the backdrop of COVID-19 lockdowns and economic hardships. This was perhaps the most visible change brought about by DIRBS as both businesses and individual consumers reposed confidence in the system and imports continued at the same pace.
Taxes and duties collected from individual consumers, which was an untapped area for revenue collection prior to DIRBS, resulted in the collection of Rs .7.7 billion during the period between January 2019 to September 2020.
PTA blocked 175,000 devices that were reported as stolen IMEIs through DIRBS. The system identified and blocked 24.3 million fake replica mobile devices. DIRBS identified and blocked cloned IMEIs whereby 66,465 IMEIs were cloned/duplicated against 661,625 MSISDN. Substantial growth was observed in 4G devices connected to local mobile networks. The pattern also pointed towards a decline in the use of 2G and 3G devices, with increased consumer appetite for 4G functionality devices.
DIRBS was successfully introduced in Pakistan in 2019 to eliminate the grey handset market, and to abolish counterfeit, fake, and stolen mobiles that were freely available in the local market. The system has not only benefited consumers but also the government in terms of increased revenue generation.
It has positively impacted the overall economy, and in tandem, has not only kept a tight rein on the smuggling of handsets in Pakistan but has also created employment opportunities as a new handset manufacturing industry evolves in the country.
Commercial importers can register IMEIs by using the web portal, whereas individuals can do so by utilizing multiple platforms including a web portal and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) platform, and by visiting their nearest cellular operator franchisees.
The Device Registration System is integrated with all relevant government departments, which saves individuals from the hassle of having to personally visit multiple offices. DIRBS also provides an opportunity for consumers to check the status of a mobile device IMEI before purchase. Consumers and retailers can verify their respective IMEIs through multiple platforms such as web portals, mobile app, and SMS shortcodes.
The advent of DIRBS heralded a complete wipeout of grey channels in the local market vis-à-vis imported handsets, leading to an increase in legal imports. The healthy competition provided a level playing field for local manufacturing, and of late, 29 local assembly plants are permitted across the country and 17 are operational at present. These plants produced over 11 million mobile devices including 4G smartphones in 2019 only.
In the first nine months of 2020, as many as 6.62 million devices have been locally assembled out of which 0.68 million are 4G devices. Increased production of 4G devices reflects the interest of local players in establishing such manufacturing plants within Pakistan.
Recognizing this healthy trend, which owes it to the implementation of DIRBS, the government of Pakistan decided to introduce a comprehensive mobile manufacturing policy to encourage and attract mobile manufacturing entrepreneurs and companies to establish their units in Pakistan.