Mahmood & Shafique -Part 5
With the liberalization of the telecom sector, teledensity of the country has improved greatly in the last few years. The total teledensity reached 40.17 percent in March 2007, as compared to 2.8 percent in 2000-01. This huge jump is mainly attributed to the boom in the mobile segment of the sector. The fixed telephone line industry, on the other hand, is yet to reach its competitors' targets. This is partly due to the need for additional time to prepare their respective fiber optics.
The cellular mobile segment is the most thriving and growth-oriented sector since liberalization. Approximately 1.6 million subscribers are joining cellular mobile networks each month in Pakistan. In fact, the total number of mobile subscribers at the end of March 2007 passed the 55.6 million mark. Competition and liberalization in the market have changed the market share of major cellular companies on a positive note.
PTCL no longer operates a monopoly; in fact, the fixed line sector holds 14 Long Distance International (LDI) licenses, out of which 12 companies are operating commercially. As a result, consumers enjoy maximum benefits while making international and nation-wide dialing calls at much lower prices. Presently, international calls are as low as Rs.1.99 per minute for selected countries. Private companies have also compelled the incumbent operators to reduce the rates significantly. PTCL, for instance, has reduced its rates up to 14 percent for Nation Wide Dialing (NWD) calling cards and almost 40 percent on international calls to countries like the U.S. and the UK. Out of 37 newly-licensed local loop companies, only three were able to start their operations during 2005. Other licensees are busy laying their infrastructure and hopefully in the coming years some of their operations will also start and will increase the fixed teledensity of the country.
Wireless local loop services
WLL services are gaining popularity due to their relatively low deployment and maintenance costs and are replacing fixed wire line networks. Out of sixteen licensed companies, four companies have started WLL services in different regions of Pakistan. These are PTCL, Telecard, World Call and Great Bear. WLL services are available in more than 160 cities in Pakistan. The WLL segment of the telecom sector has shown tremendous growth; WLL subscribers have reached 1.57 million December, 2006 from a mere 81,030 in January, 2005 (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, 2007).