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Published on May 26th, 2012 | by Arsalan Mir


Point of View: 3G – Feasible and Running in Afghanistan but not in Pakistan!

Guest Post by Misbahuddin Abdullah

Before getting to 3G in Pakistan I want to share a few words about auction of 3G license in Afghanistan.

Just like in Pakistan, operators were also reluctant to purchase a 3G license in Afghanistan. Simple reason being- the expected ARPU & all that stuff.  ATRA, the regulatory authority there, did a simple trick. Instead of selling three or four licenses of 3G, they sold only one!

Now, with competition created, every operator was willing to buy the license. Etisalat got it, although layman would expect Roshan to get it. Afterall, Roshan is the market leader in Afghanistan… Okay, rite?

 The rules of business are simple. Why would Roshan want to buy 3G if its already making alot of money from 2G. So basically Roshan would be most reluctant to have an auction of 3G. The competitors would like to have 3G before Roshan gets it, so that they can nullify the early entrant advantage Roshan had in 2G in Afghanistan.

Once Etisalat got the license, they launched it within few weeks & immediately marketed it. Turmoil was up in Roshan.

ATRA still continued the game. Again held auction for one more license. This time MTN got it…..You can easily understand the rest of the story.

Now translate this for Pakistan.

Mobilink is the market leader in Pakistan. Why would it like 3G license to be auctioned in PK, if they are making hell lot of money from 2G. If 3G is to be launched, Mobilink will need to bring more investment & still face fresh competition from competitors. So Mobilink will use all its influence to get 3G license auction delayed in PK. And since we have alot of school going kids in PTA, they will always want to auction hell lot of 3G licenses :)

I dont get it….. ‘Why can’t PTA do it?’ Why can’t PTA sell one license of 3G?

Even the Afghans get it!

I can bet over this. If auction of just one license of 3G is held in Pakistan, PTA would get hell lot of money per license, than if it
sells 3 licenses.

3 licenses mean no effective competition- Warid has no money!

I have repeatedly suggested this idea of selling license of 3G one-by- one. Instead of PTA listening to it, its the ATRA who overheard!

Wonder when PTA will wake up!

And yes just one line for all those concerned with 3G feasibility in Pakistan:

If 3G is not feasible for Pakistan, how can it be feasible for Afghanistan? 

I can expect that someone will say, “NATO forces will use 3G in Afg, while there are no NATO forces in PK” !!!

NATO will quit in 2014 (if not before)…. Then who will use it? Will the operators in Afg then dismantle the equipment?

One last thing. There is substantial increase in Etisalat/Afg revenue, although they have launched 3G only in Kabul.

The author is a NED alumni and telecom engineer by profession having 6 and a half years’ experience in Radio industry. Currently works as a consultant at Devoteam, KSA and have earlier worked for NSN, LCC, Roshan Telecom and Ufone.

About the Author

is a Telecom enthusiast with engineering background based in Lahore. On professional front, he is the Director Operations at the Target Group. He can be reached at arsalan (at) telecompk (dot) net

10 Responses to Point of View: 3G – Feasible and Running in Afghanistan but not in Pakistan!

  1. Ali Awan says:

    Dear Misbah,
    rumours for 4G/LTE network is going high in pakistan.Apart from PTCL,Mobilink and zong may jump into the race for technology neutral licenses.

  2. Misbahuddin Abdullah says:

    Thanks Sameer for your comment.

    I believe the best option would be to sell technology neutral license.
    Let operator decide what they want to implement.

    LTE is surely better than 3G. But we need to mind that LTE capable handsets are not available in Pakistan. However, a good number of Pakis have 3G enabled handsets, which will make easy and fast adoption of 3G if commercially launched.

  3. Sameer says:

    In my opinion it is too late for the 3G license in Pakistan. No improvement in voice quality the only benefit is Radio planning is much easier.
    I think it would be good to go straight to LTE i.e 4G to focus on the high speed mobile data. May be someone concern about the litracy, in the begining the use may be wrong but gradually it might create awareness and litracy, there is much room for E-commerce in Pakistan.

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  8. Misbahuddin Abdullah says:

    Dear Blah Blah,
    First, please be a man to mention your name instead of nicks to post comments. There is no point of whining while being anonymous.

    Several operators have been running 3G trials in Pakistan. Trial and commercial launch are completely different stuff.

    And if Etisalat launched 3G just because it was running trials, then AWCC should have launched even before them. They were working on 3G even before Etisalat.

    ATRA may have open offer to all operators, good enough {I need to reconsider the respect I had for them :)}
    The bottom line is that once an operator launches 3G, it motivates other operators to compete as well.

    And , for the sake of argument, please don’t forget that the most lucrative offer for 3G equipment could come from Chinese sellers for Pakistani cellular operators. I believe some already have. Merely having the 3G equipment & running trials serves no purpose unless you have the license.

    Etisalat earns much more from Pakistan. Wont they be willing to launch 3G in Pakistan?
    I believe if PTA had such an offer in Pakistan, no operator would have been so slow to launch 3G.

    I completely do not get you when you say ‘the three other mobile operators are in the process of setting up 3G but that too is mainly for data and not for voice.’ Even a school kid knows today that every operator in the world goes for 3G to target data. Could you please explain what point you wanted to make here?

    “Data demand is quite high in Afghanistan”, agreed. Its high everywhere. Even in remote African countries, data demand is high. No news in this point either :)

    Overall, I couldn’t understand your point at all. Could you please be specific?

    My comments about Afghans was meant to be insensitive.

  9. Blah Blah says:

    I dont agree with the comment of ATRA issuing only one license to get the other mobile operators to launch as well.

    In addition, i dont agree with the comment of license not being picked up by operators due to low ARPU.

    The fact of the matter is that Etisalat got the license because they were already running a trial in Kabul ( 40 sites to be exact ) for 3G. In addition , backed by the group , they were not really worried about the 25 Million $ license fee that was imposed. The trial was actually due to a monetary issue with ZTE ( their prime vendor ) – which was paid by the vendor in terms of 3G trials.

    ATRA has an open offer for any of the mobile operators to pick the 3G license up , with an automatic extension of the 2G license for 10 years with the 3G payment ( pretty lucrative , if your license is about to expire )

    Roshan / MTN / AWCC , the three other mobile operators are in the process of setting up 3G but that too is mainly for data and not for voice. The 2nd operator mentioned in your article is actually only building it as on overlay on 2G for data (which has a very high demand in Afghanistan).

    The only major reasons that operators are hesitant of are

    1) The coverage & number of sites restrictions imposed by the regulatory with the license.

    2) The cost of network upgrades / security issues with sites ( this is already being covered with discussions about nodeB & RNC sharing) , so effectively you’ll be paying 1/3 ( if all three operators get into it) of the cost of the network rollout.

    And i seriously disagree with your comment about “Even the Afghans get it”! It is derogatory to Afghans and should not be put up on a site like Telecom PK.

    ATRA is a very good institution that has worked for the betterment of telecommunications in Afghanistan by running a lot of projects with a USF like setup in Afghanistan , which ended up bringing mobile services to places in Afghanistan which have not even seen a mobile phone yet!

    Disclaimer: I am a Pakistani working for a mobile operator in Afghanistan.

    • Arsalan Mir says:

      Note that all views expressed in our ‘Point of View’ series are those of the contributor and not necessarily of TelecomPk.

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