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Technology

COVID-19, network upgrade fuel Pakistan’s Telecom sector growth in 2020: PTA

  • A surge in demand for telecom services due to lockdown resulted in significant growth not only in the subscriber base also in the usage of telecom services.
  • In the last five years, total broadband subscription in the country grew by 175pc.
16 Jan 2021

Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan’s telecom sector has emerged as a prominent contributor to the country's economy and the sector contribution to the national exchequer has shown an increase of 129 percent in the year 2020 as compared to 2019.

As per PTA Annual Report 2020, the sector contributed Rs 278 billion (including PTA deposits to the national exchequer) in FY 2020 as compared to PKR 121 billion in FY 2019 registering Year-on-Year growth of 129pc.

As per the report, a surge in demand for telecom services due to lockdown resulted in significant growth not only in the subscriber base also in the usage of telecom services. Currently, data usage stands at 4,498 Peta Bytes (FY2020) as compared to 2,545 Peta Bytes (FY 2019) showing a growth of over 77pc.

PTA stated that this ‘substantial growth’ would not have been possible if the networks were not upgraded. It informed that Pakistan has international bandwidth connectivity of 3.1 TeraBytes and around 47,000 cell sites, of which 90pc are 4G enabled sites.

According to the PTA Annual Report, in the last five years, total broadband subscription in the country grew by 175pc. At present, broadband subscribers have crossed 90 million showing a growth of around 8% in FY2020. Pakistan has a total broadband penetration of 42.2pc in FY2020.

It informed that the telecom networks are currently available for 87pc of the population and PTA is working with operators to increase their network coverage for remaining 13pc unserved people of the country.

The total tele-density now stands at 82pc with over 172 million mobile subscribers and 2.2 million fixed-line subscribers.

Talking about the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the report said that in 2020 the telecom sector made an impressive share of 25pc (USD 623 million) in the total FDI made in the country. The total investment made by the local operators grew by 14.25pc and a total of USD 734 million were invested locally. Total revenues of the sector reached PKR 537 billion in FY 2020, which was mainly generated by mobile sector.

It informed that currently per GB broadband prices in Pakistan are as low as USD 0.20 which is amongst the lowest in the region.

The report stated that due to DIRBS introduction government revenues increased many folds with tax collection on handset imports. The local manufacturing of handsets have enlivened the telecom ecosystem, with growth in local 4G device manufacturing crossing 34pc.

It said that in 2020, Pakistan experienced trials of 5G services which were one of the few firsts in South Asia. PTA is aiming for spectrum auction of LTE, VoLTE services in 2021 as a precursor to 5G. The regulator is also gearing up for auction of spectrum for high-speed broadband services in AJK & GB.

PTA Annual Report informs that the regulator this year awarded 110 licenses for different telecom services and issued 91 commencement of service certificates to the operators. The Annual Report further revealed that PTA was ranked as 4th generation telecom regulator by the ITU, which places PTA in top five regulators of the Asia-Pacific region.