ISLAMABAD -  China Mobile Pakistan (Zong) has added around 0.8 million 4G users to its network during September this year alone, mainly due to rise of its portable 4G MiFi devices that come with massive monthly data limits.

While it is still being debated if 4G could become primary internet connection for masses or not, Pakistani internet users are apparently relying more on Zong’s 4G data devices, as compared to wired broadband, thanks to up to 200 GBs of per month data limit offered.

The fact has been reflected in Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) latest monthly statistics as total number of 3G and 4G users reach 34.19 million. As per figures, Zong’s 4G users reached 1.72 million at end of September 2016, up from just 0.92 million a month ago.

 With Warid’s LTE users, the total number of 4G customers in Pakistan reached 2.3 million by September 2016, up from 1 million subscribers just two months ago. Total 3G subscribership reached 32 million at end of September. Mobilink added 5,43,000 3G users during the month to top the charts. Zong that did well for 4G, lost some 91,000 3G users – who probably were upgraded to 4G. Overall mobile phone users (2G, 3G and 4G combined) reached 134.41 million at end of September 2016.

Tougher competition making phone calls cheaper

The effective price of cellular mobile calls has witnessed a substantial reduction to Re0.60 per minute in Pakistan during 2015 which cost about Rs1.68 per minute five years back.

The price per minute of cellular mobile call in the country is now almost one third of the price in 2010-11. Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) are offering one of the lowest mobile call charges in the world and the affordability of services has contributed to phenomenal growth in mobile adoption. A latest report issued by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) revealed that all CMOs are involved in aggressive marketing campaigns and promotions.

Therefore, the cellular mobile segment needs a thorough review so that financial viability and health of the segment can be assured.

In Pakistan, all the CMOs are offering two to five standard prepaid packages with pulse durations of one second, 20 second, 30 seconds and 60 seconds. The operators are offering aggressive promotions which include unlimited on-net calls as well as free calls to off-net mobile and fixed-line networks.

As per details, Telenor is offering lowest tariff for on-net and off-net calls (Rs.1.50 per minute) to its prepaid customers. Zong is offering 20 seconds pulse duration and is charging Rs1.65 per minute. Ufone and Warid Telecom are charging Rs 1.70 per minute whereas Pakistan Mobile Communication Limited (PMCL) (Mobilink) is charging Rs1.80 for on-net and off-net calls. Warid is the only operator which is also offering “Friends and Family” tariff for five numbers at Rs 0.98 per minute (on-net) and Rs. 1.50 per minute (off-net).

SMS tariff offered by CMOs are in the range of Rs1.20 (PMCL) and Rs1.48 (Ufone). Some of the operators are charging Rs5 per day for unlimited on-net calls and Rs1.00 per minute for off-net calls. In case of postpaid, CMOs are offering four to seven postpaid packages with pulse duration of 30 seconds and 60 seconds respectively.

The report said monthly subscription charges/line rent offered by CMOs are in range of Rs49 to Rs4,000 charged by Ufone and Warid Telecom respectively. On-net tariff is in range of Rs1.00 to Rs1.30 per minute, whereas off-net tariff is in the range of Rs1.25 to Rs1.60 per minute.

With regard to PTA’s efforts, the report said as mandated under the Act, PTA was playing active role to maintain healthy competition in different segments of telecom sector while safeguarding interests of consumers and investors. PTA is also actively working on implementation of the Telecom Policy 2015 and several related tasks are underway. PTA has provided a comprehensive input to Ministry of IT to frame competition rules and the authority is of the view that under these rules, pricing in all defined markets shall be cost based, with minimum/reasonable rate of return and must be assessed regularly for their appropriateness and adequacy keeping in view affordability of the end-users.

Furthermore, operators shall not be allowed to carry out arrangements that prevent or lessen competition substantially and all kinds of anti-competitive behaviors and conduct or practices that may result in the lessening of competition shall not be allowed.