Despite being on the back foot in the West, the Chinese technology giant Huawei has been quietly strengthening its foothold in the massive South Asian market. Both Huawei and ZTE are the main suppliers of the radio access network (RAN) in Pakistan. Huawei has up to 60 percent of the RAN market share, with ZTE capturing virtually all the remainder.
Huawei have very much convinced the South Asian nations with a flourishing middle class to adopt their 5G technology. Huawei are already well established in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka alhtough they have yet to take off in India.
Pakistan, which has a population of 217 million, has 161 million mobile phone subscribers including 69 million 3G / 4G users. Pakistan’s most popular data network and a pioneer of mobile internet connectivity is Zong , they have provided Huawei with the foothold it was looking for locally.
With Zong having 12,000 4G sites across Pakistan, they announced a partnership for digital transformation early this year. Zong 4G and Huawei will be integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data to provide consumers with fast, uninterrupted connectivity.
China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak), branded as Zong 4G , has now achieved another milestone by successfully conducting 5G trials in the country. This achievement has made the Chinese telecom company the first and only local mobile operator to do so.
Zong CMPAK has been delivering the many firsts of the telecom industry in Pakistan; for instance, being the first to launch 4G in Pakistan, first to cross the prolific mark of 12,000+ 4G towers and the first to reach the more 13 million 4G customers mark and 34.71 million mobile phone subscribers overall.
Zong has now become the first operator to conduct successful 5G trials to play a leading role in transforming the digital landscape of Pakistan. Zong believes that 5G will bring more profound and long-term changes to Pakistan’s economic transformation, social progress, and people’s livelihood improvement in future. 5G is expected to revolutionise key sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and education in Pakistan. It will have a significant impact on Pakistan's economic transformation, social progress and create new avenues of entertainment.
With a commitment to develop the digital ecosystem in Pakistan, Zong has always been at the forefront to offer innovative, state-of-the-art and most advanced services and solutions to its valued customers. As the pioneer of 4G services in Pakistan, Zong has already established itself as Pakistan’s largest network with more than 13 million 4G customers and 12,000 4G sites. During the event, the Secretary IT, PTA chairman, Economic & Commercial Counsellor, Chinese Embassy along with the dignitaries tested Zong’s 5G network.
According to industry sources, 5G service in Pakistan will be 100 times faster than the current levels while network will be 10 times faster than existing broadband connections available in the country. 5G home routers speed has been recorded at 4 gigabytes per second, which means that it can download a 50 GB file in just two minutes.
However some industry gurus are cautious and believe Pakistan is likely to take longer time to enter into 5G business because the penetration of 3G / 4G has only reached 32.72 percent by June 2019.
Jazz, a part of Veon, has around 60 million mobile phone users in Pakistan. Telenor has 44 million mobile phone customers, according to statistics from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
Mobile phone users on 3G and 4G network are facing poor network performance. Local mobile operators, under the regulation, have to maintain data rates of 256 kbps for 3G and 2 Mbps for 4G in Pakistan, Matt Walker said in a research report from MTN Consulting.
Jazz has achieved an average download speed of 17.13 Mbps and average upload speed of 10.74 Mbps during Q3-Q4 2018, Speedtest report from Ookla said.
Zong has achieved an average download speed of 17.13 Mbps and average upload speed of 10.74 Mbps during Q3-Q4 2018.
Telenor has achieved an average download speed of 7.72 Mbps and average upload speed of 3.81 Mbps during Q3-Q4 2018.
Ufone has achieved an average download speed of 4.43 Mbps and average upload speed of 2.29 Mbps during Q3-Q4 2018.
The currency in Pakistan has been devalued by more than 40 percent to its value of January 2018. During January 2018 the exchange rate was USD 1 to PKR 110 and now in August 2019 it is hovering around PKR 160.
This is impacting the telecom sector in the country. Reduction in profit margins, decrease in available Capex for new investments as nearly all equipment is imported and increase in Opex are the main issues due to the devaluation of PKR.
Mobile operator revenue in Pakistan reached PKR 488750 million in 2017-18 as compared with PKR 464111 million in 2016-17.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said telecoms Capex has reached $670 million in 2017-18 as compared with $635 million during 2016-17.
Therefore Pakistan operators may well not be ready for making investment in 5G network. They may try to expand 4G network coverage and may take another 3-4 years to look for additional revenue streams from 5G.