What Really is 3G/4G?
Although there is a lot of discussion on 3G and 4G services in Pakistan, most people are still unsure as to what this up-gradation really means. There are a lot of different definitions available but we will describe this in the simplest way possible. Having a 2G network is like having a slow Internet connection. Most of the websites open and videos can be played but everything is very slow. Launching 3G is like upgrading your Internet connection to a much higher speed. The arrival to 3G and 4G means that now the operators have a lot of bandwidth and they can provide many new services using this additional speed and bandwidth.
New Services of 3G/4G Technology:
Let’s talk about a few services that you will start seeing on your mobile phones in the next few months. We have only listed the services that WE think will be most used, rest assured that there will be many other services and applications as well!
Most subscribers will be able to make video calls. This means that with your voice, your video will also be transmitted to the other end. This will be a pretty popular service with people who want to communicate but rarely get a chance to meet.
Online Mobile TV:
Although watching TV on mobile has been advertised by telcos for quite some time now, the actual Mobile TV that will stream properly will be possible with the help of 3G technology only. This will help people stay in touch with news and entertainment even if they do not have access to a TV at that time.
We realize that video streaming seems like a service that is actually present, and yes that is true as well. However, with 3G and 4G services you will be able to stream videos without actually waiting for them to load. Playing videos will be faster and smoother.
Innovative Mobile Services:
Apart from the above mentioned services, there will be a lot of other applications that will use the 3G and 4G technology. This will also include hundreds of mobile applications that require high speed data access. You will be seeing a lot of video, music and game apps that were not previously present due to low data rate of the 3G network.
Are there any Negatives of 3G/4G?
Many techies might frown upon this section but the negatives (alleged) must also be discussed as a portion of the Pakistani society does highlight them. Lets check out the most discussed negative factors of the 3G and 4G services.
Dark Side of Our Society:
Although rarely discussed on public forums, there is a sleazy dark side of the apparently decent Pakistani society. It is common knowledge that mobile phones are used by many teenagers inappropriately and sometimes sharing of undue pictures, videos or messages lead to trauma for those involved. Some believe that the provision of 3G and 4G services like video calling will take this particular problem in our society to a whole new level. As Pakistan already ranks high for countries that search for illicit material on the internet, a high speed link to the internet from smart phones might also worsen this situation.
Adverse Health Effects of 3G/4G Technology:
The 3G and 4G base station emit higher amounts of radiations as compared to the 2G base stations. This has caused a concern among doctors who view this as a source of cancer. Although most studies done in this domain are not concluded, usage of a smart phone for 15 or 20 years is predicted to cause considerable damage to cells. These studies are not entirely accurate as different phones show different results. The latest smart phones in the market have lower radiations but this is not relief for our society as more than 90% people do not own smart phones.
Although we discussed the two most commonly quoted anti-3G/4G points, it is still not right to blame the technology for wrongdoings of humans. Whereas the 2nd point might need looking into, the first issue can be resolved by raising awareness in our country and the technology should not be unfairly blamed for it.
How Big Will 3G/4G Be in Pakistan?
Internet Usage Stats in Pakistan:
According to a recent report by ansr.io, Pakistan has 30 million internet subscribers. Almost half of these i.e. 15 million, use mobile phones to browse the internet. Although an internet penetration rate of 16% may seem like a disappointing figure to some, it is actually quite impressive as the number of broadband subscribers have more than doubled in the last two years alone. A similar growth trend in the next ten years could mean that Pakistan might become a leading internet hub in Asia. Since 3G and 4G technology means access to a faster internet connection, these stats signify bright future for these technologies in Pakistan.
How Much will You Spend?
With the introduction of new services and faster internet, the amount of money a subscriber needs to spend monthly on his cell phone will increase too. A recent survey conducted by ProPakistani.pk shows that more than 80% of the people were of the view that they will spend a maximum of Rs. 1200 (approx $12) for a 3G internet bundle with a monthly limit of 4 GB. This is a very cheap package as compared to other countries where this technology has already been implemented. However, the reluctance of subscribers to pay more might drive down the market a little.
Cell Phones and Mobile Internet:
It is very important to understand the telecommunication industry in Pakistan to estimate the success of 3G and 4G technology in this industry. Pakistan has 120 million mobile users out of which only 10% use smart phones. The mobile internet penetration is 11% but is increasing rapidly. The decreasing costs of smart phones and increasing popularity of iOS and Android is driving the market upwards. Pakistan currently has about 5% to 6% social media penetration but this figure will go up pretty quickly as most associated factors are improving rapidly as well. Pakistan has over 9 million facebook users and growth of social media is at a rate of about 7% per year. This is expected to rise once 3G and 4G technologies are introduced in the market.
Most Experts Think 3G/4G will be Huge in Pakistan: Why?
It’s a Life Style Shift!
Since the internet trend in Pakistan is still in its adolescence, introduction of 3G and 4G at this point will be a life style shift for most Pakistanis. A very important fact to remember here is that more than 70% of the population of Pakistan is below the age of 30. More over, more than two thirds of social media users in Pakistan are below the age of 25. This certainly signifies that 3G/4G technology in Pakistan will make a huge different in the younger generation of Pakistan. It will also give the much needed support to job market as tens of thousands of telecom engineers will be employed. This means that these technologies will play a huge part in social as well as economic scenario of Pakistan.
Entrepreneurship in Pakistan:
Trend of Entrepreneurship is taking over in Large cities of Pakistan especially Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. Introduction of 3G/4G technologies will allow for new dimensions for growth of local entrepreneurs. This will especially benefit the “mostly untaxed” E-Commerce market in the country which is still surrounded by a cloud of mystery. Moreover, this will also allow for a lot of new services to be introduced. These developments will certainly give much needed support to the Entrepreneurs in Pakistan who are working in an unmoderated space of the Pakistani economy.
Internet has a lot to Gain in Pakistan:
Although some people might see the small numbers of social media users and less mobile internet penetration as a disadvantage, this is actually a blessing in disguise. The introduction of 3G and 4G in this market makes one think of the endless possibilities that lie before us. Since the internet has a lot to cover in Pakistan, we can work on ideas that can be scaled to a much larger level. With the internet penetration, social media users, and smart phone usage increasing rapidly, the presence of latest technologies in the telecom domain will lead to a much brighter future for the internet based industry in Pakistan.
Spectrum Allocation: Is “Zong” Special?
Nowadays there is a lot of hype in the industry about Zong being the only telco in Pakistan who was able to secure a 4G license. What most people are interested in finding out is that what difference will this make? Does this mean that Zong will be able to launch some out of the world services that no other company will be able to launch? The answer is Yes, and No.
Results of Spectrum allocation:
First let’s checkout the results of auction. Telenor, Mobilink, Ufone and Zong bagged 3G licenses. Warid will certainly be at a loss for not acquiring any license as many subscribers are using mobile number portability (MNP) feature or simply buying new connections to change their network. Zong became the only and first operator in the country to get a 4G license. Most of the complaints about Zong’s poor network have already disappeared in the last year due to network upgradation and increasing of coverage range. Now this license will certainly help Zong capture a huge chunk of market if it plays its card right.
Will Zong have something special?
For this question, there is no definite answer. 4G technology means a faster internet connection but this does not means that 3G will be very poor in comparison. If 3G network is operated properly with latest equipment, the speed of both networks can be comparable to some extent. The 4G license does mean that Zong should have better quality especially during video calls and online voice calls. Other online services should also run smoothly over Zong’s network but there is also a downside. The number of phones in Pakistan that actually support 4G is not very high. Secondly, 4G technology consumes more battery life and incurs significant charges for most online services. Now it is up to Zong to promote their services in such a way as to make the maximum from the opportunity they have got.
The bottom line is that 3G and 4G service will play a great role in the social as well as economic development of Pakistan. Let’s hope our telecommunication industry progresses to new heights with this technology.