In a development that will make the country’s cellular mobile sector fully equipped with the next-generation mobile broadband, Mobilink announced to commercially launch its third-generation (3G) services from July 18.
The largest operator by subscriptions – the Pakistani subsidiary of VimpelCom – is the only operator with a 3G licence that has yet to launch its services commercially. The company, however, said it would be charging its customers for using its 3G services from July 18, according to a text message it sent to the customers.
Warid Telecom, the only operator that opted out of the April 23rd spectrum auction, has also notified its customers about the commercial launch of its Long Term Evolution or 4G services by the end of September.
With Mobilink and Warid launching their high-speed mobile internet services in July and September respectively, all five operators in the country will be offering their customer portable broadband.
Mobilink, along with Telenor, Ufone and Zong, participated in the April’s auction and acquired 10 megahertz of spectrum in the 3G band. The company, however, had been offering its 3G services for free since then – a special facility that the officials termed was part of its 20th anniversary celebrations.
A majority of Pakistan’s smartphone users – 62.5% to be exact – use the internet via Wifi mostly from home, while only a quarter of them use internet on their cellphones, according to a recent survey by the Dutch mobile app developer Grappetite – an indication that 3G is yet to reach its potential.
However, with all five operators offering high-speed mobile internet, this equation is likely to change in the next few months, according to industry sources.
With the recent introduction of third-generation (3G) mobile technology, the country’s broadband user base is expected to be somewhere between 25 to 45 million by 2020, according to Pakistan Startup report.
With its 180 million plus people – of whom 60% are between 15 and 45 years of age – Pakistan is the world’s sixth most populous country and one of the largest markets for telecom services. Despite a 16% internet penetration, about half of Pakistan’s 30 million internet users access internet through mobile phones – the country’s mobile penetration stands at 74% or 136.5 million subscriptions.
With most of its internet subscribers being active users of social media, the country is home to 14.4 million Facebook users (as of June 2014) – a number that’s likely to shoot up as more people access social media through their smartphones.