Last update: Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05am
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Broadband round-up

 Pakistan is yet to undergo a penetration in broadband services, the likes of which the country witnessed in cellular services. The official statistic of 1.65 million broadband subscriptions (September 2011) and unofficial estimates of 19.8 million PC internet users (June 2011), indicate that a vast majority of over 100 million adult Pakistanis is missing out on the academic and socioeconomic benefits of broadband. Broadband has largely been an urban phenomenon in Pakistan. The broadband service providers, naturally, started out from big cities like Karachi and Lahore, and then expanded into mid-sized cities across the country. The business strategy to grow big by thinking small may take these BSPs a while to enlarge their broadband footprint to un-served rural areas. There are both wireless and fixed BSPs operating in Pakistan. The telecoms regulator recently released a survey, which assessed the BSPs Quality of Service in federal & provincial capitals. PTA identified four KPIs for this survey. First indicator was service availability, which assessed the percentage of time users could get successful access to broadband services. Second was andwidth speed, which measured the maximum amount of data that can be sent or received by a user. Third KPI was the ound-trip time, which measured the time taken for a data packet to reach a particular destination and return. Final measure was etain-ability, which calculated the time users remained connected during a span of 60 minutes. The survey has some obvious limitations, in that its sample size is unknown and only seven cities have been covered. Therefore, the findings should be viewed as indicative. Among the wireless BSPs, Wateen Telecom emerged as the clear, overall winner. In the 512Kbps package the Abu Dhabi Group-backed company was placed in Category-A (overall KPI score greater than 90 percent) in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Karachi and Quetta. In the 1Mbps package, Wateen occupied Category-A in Lahore, and the twin cities of Rawalpindi & Islamabad. Detailed survey results indicate that among the wireless BSPs, service availability and retain-ability has been 100 percent in all cities. The round-trip time for a majority of BSPs fell between 60 and 80 milliseconds. In the 512Kbps package, wi-tribe came on top with a download speed of 521Kbps (Karachi), and in the 1Mbps package, Wateen topped with 919Kbps download speed in Karachi. There is a clear case for improving the broadband penetration in ignored areas. The Universal Service Fund Co. has been instrumental in this area. Since its inception in 2007, USF has subsidized provision of over 350,000 broadband connections, and established 994 educational broadband centres and 292 community broadband centres. These projects largely have fixed broadband services. ICT experts suggest that Pakistan is increasingly becoming a fixed broadband substitution market. They cite the exclusive, growing segment of 15.7 million mobile internet users (June 2011) as a testament to that. They argue that following the imminent transition from 2.5G to 3G data networks, a market for high-speed mobile broadband would be developed, which will remove the deficiencies of fixed broadband. In that case, the wireless BSPs are in for some serious competition in the post-3G milieu. PTCL seems to be gearing up for that, as the telecom giant plans to invest upto Rs100 billion in the local market by 2016 to provide minimum 10Mbps broadband for up to five million outlets, households, and businesses. It would be interesting to see how the rest of the players cope with these game-changing developments.