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PAKISTAN TELECOMMUNICATION HISTORY

In 1947 Pakistan’s Telecom sector inherited the British Post, Telegraph & Telephone [PTT] Departments with a miniscule base of 7000 telephone lines. For 30 years this entity lumbered and slumbered with its old mechanical, analog ‘Strouger" switches and analog telephone lines, protected in its monopoly, both local and global. By 1962 this PTT Department was split up into the Telephone & Telegraph Department and the Postal Departments. By 1991 this was further re-organized thorough the PTC Act 1991 opening this public sector to the private sector companies. Licenses were granted for non-basic services where the PTT had no experience base. These were Data Network Services, Paging, Manufacturing of Small Telephone Exchanges [ "Digital Communications" being the first company to do so].

Once [ 1995] the Internet exploded onto the Global Telecom scenario, it was evident that the old Pakistan Telecom monopoly was no longer able to cope with the influx of new revolutionary technologies . As recently as 1994, trained basically in voice telecomm technologies , a Divisional Engineer at a PTCL city exchange could not believe that data could also be sent over a telephone line. By 1995 PTCL General Managers were being advised by private sector telecom companies that Voice Mail and Email should be added to the services offered by PTCL.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Ordinance 1994 provides a legal framework for active participation of the private sector in the development of telecommunication services. The Act also provides a legal base for the establishment of the following :

1. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority -- (PTA) mandate was to regulate the telecom sector .

2. The Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) was made responsible for frequency spectrum management and its monitoring..

3. National Telecomm Corporation was set up to provide telecommunication services to public sector (Govt & Defence) organizations.

4. Pakistan Telecommunication Employees Trust (PTET) was created as a trust to takeover statutory function to disburse pension and other benefits to the employees of the PTCL.

5. Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) was incorporated as a public limited company , with the objective of providing domestic and international telecommunication and related services. About 95% of the assets and liabilities of PTC, at net book value, were transferred to PTCL whereas the remaining 5% assets were vested in PTA, FAB, NTC and PTET. The vesting of assets to new entities took place with effect from 1st January 1996.

For Whom the Phones Ring 

By 1996 , PTCL management was operating in defense mode trying to play catch-up, which it did well to learn fast. It sent its engineers to various western countries and companies to learn new Data Networking and Internet and Wireless Technologies but the sheer size of this New Wave Technologies was of Tsunami proportions, as the western countries and companies also learned to their discomfort and loss of competitive advantage. It manufactures some basic Microwave technology cards in its factory in Haripur [ TIP].

No indigenous PTC digital telephone telephone exchange design or manufacturing capability was built during 1947 to 2003. Some local software expertise was created by Alcatel in its operations in Islamabad. But nothing took place as it did in India during 1985-1990, when Sam Pitroda , a U.S. venture capitalist and telecom entrepreneur[ originally from Orissa, India— made his money by selling his telecomm company in 1970’s to Rockwell in Chicago, USA . Pitroda found a receptive ear in Rajiv Gandhi . Rajiv Gandhi thanks to his basic telecoms exposure as an Airline Pilot was able to see the importance of an Indian Telecomm industry. Against a similar bureaucratic infra structure to Pakistan’s PTCL , Sam Pitroda created C-DOT [ center for the development of telematics . In doing so the first low-cost, non-air-conditioned , Rural Telephone Exchange [ called RAX]of about a 1000 to 5000 lines was made and later its license sold to many Indian companies. It was also exported to about 30 African and Asian countries earning valuable foreign exchange for India.

The subsequent moves by the PTCL management are noticeable in their "creative destruction" strategy.

PTCL Creative Destruction.- 1995-2003

6. Pakistan Telecom Foundation [PTF] was formed in 1997 to defend the Data Network sector against private sector data network operators.

7. By 1999 PakNet / Pak Data Comm was split of from Pakistan Telecom Foundation to look after the pure Data Network sector and Pakistan Telecom Foundation was left with retired PTCL engineers to run more mundane and less specialized engineering of Laying Telecom Cables.

8. More recently [ 1994-2003 ]as Private cellular operators [ PakTel, Instaphone, Mobilink] raced ahead with Mobile Voice Networks [ both AMPS and GSM] , PTCL launched their private Mobile Network company Ufone.

9. More recently PTCL is trying to enter the area of Hybrid Fiber Cable [ HFC] -TV networks after the initial launch of WorldCall’s HFC networks in Lahore and Karachi affluent suburbs. By first quarter of 2003 these payphones numbered 21,000.

10. Arfeen which started with Instaphone Wireless and Supernet Data Networks [ Frame-Relay Networks ] has launched Telecard Pay phone initially using land lines from PTCL . In 2000 it launched fixed wireless [ using CDMA technologies] payphones in Karachi under the name "Foree Fone & Na Taar Na Intizzar" . By first quarter of 2003, these payphones were operating from Karachi , Lahore and Islamabad at a total number of 50,000.

11. By December 2003 PTCL obtained an extension of the De-Regulation of the Telecom sectior deadline set by WTO and March 2003 was the new deadline.

The basic statistics as on December 1998 are produced below:[ Data taken SE Asia Workshop on Internet : South Asian Realities and Opportunities,Dhaka, April, 1999 By Noor-ud-Din Baqai chepsp@paknet2.ptc.pk,Chief Engineer, Pak Telecom, Pakistan

Infrastructure

Dec. 98

March 2003

Network Capacity [ ALI]

3.52 (M)

4.4 Million

Telephones in service [ ALIs]

2.82(M)

3.69 Million

Total Population

130 million

145 million

Teledensity June 1998

2.20 %

2.54- 2.73 %

Pending demand

NA

244,000

Network Digitalization June 1998

78.27%

100%

Fiber Optic cable length

3902 km

6204 km.

No. of exchanges installed in 1997-98

42

Total exchanges

2577

2700

New NWD Stations added (1997-98)

143

Total NWD Stations

1076

1781

No. of NWD Calls (During 97-98 – Jjuly - Dec)

525.48 (M)

No. of NWD Units (during 97-98)

3540.630 (M)

New Telegraph Offices opened (1997-98)

1

346 – total.

PCOs & Payphones

Rural

Urban

10,7876,762

12,500

105,000

 

PTCL is listed on the Karachi Stock exchange and comprises about 30% of the weight-age of the KSE 100 index. In 1995 under the Chairmanship of Mian Javed, the PTCL in its first four years installed nearly 2 million telephone lines, about 200 percent increase in total capacity. Today, the number of working lines has been raised to about 2.82 million. The fixed line telephone density is 2.2 telephones per thousand people, which is higher than in some countries of the region. The number of telephone lines is expected to total nearly 4 million within the next 2 years. In addition PTCL started a very aggressive roll out of the conversion of the old analog telecom technologies to digital telecom including installation of Fiber Optic backbone between Karachi and Lahore in the initial phases.

License Raj.

These were reflected in the PTC’s decisions to not allow anyone to even attach a Fax machine or a small Telephone Exchange to a telephone line in 1980. Such products required "Licenses". The PTCL also still has a monopoly over the Voice calls sector of the telecomm market. This is the sector that is poised for growth, thanks to new Voice-Over-Internet- Protocols [VOIP] data compression technology. It is an area where the PTCL is fearful of losing the market share and which ironically will increase overall revenues due to falling phone call prices [commoditization] and subsequent increase in call volumes – more or less the same scenario as happened in the case of the Fax machines, where increased Fax volumes from Pakistan to Japan [due to Trade ] led to an explosion of PTCL revenues..

The National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) is another telecommunication network operator established by the Government of Pakistan. It has inherited 5 percent of the assets and infrastructure of the PTC, including a nation-wide microwave trunk backbone. NTC has the mandate to provide domestic telecommunication services to the armed forces, defense projects, federal government, provincial governments and other government agencies and institutions. However, it is not allowed to sell its capacity on the telecommunication system to any entity other than government agencies or the PTCL. For international calls, NTC users have to use PTCL facilities. NTC is also licensed by PTA.

Lastly, the Special Communications Organization SCO is involved in a Rs. 370 million teecomm development plan is being launched soon to link the remaining parts of Azad Jammu Kashmir with rest of the world through a digital telecommunication system. Under the telecom expansion programme, it involves the laying of Rs 249 million new cable network in various parts of Azad Kashmir comprising the mobile telephone facilities, international gateway for Long-distance calls ,a total of 36,158 new telephone connections (both digital and non- digital) by the end of the last year-2001. These connections included 25,955 digital telephone connections and 10,202 non- digital telephone connections.Facilities, including Long Distance * International are to be introduced at first leg of the plan in near future in Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Rawalkot districts, ISDN telephone connections on request of the concerned subscribers especially for the banks, newspaper managements and the major business institutions and launching of WEBSITE of SCO to promote the concessional tariff for the users from 25 kilometer to 80 KM, from 80 Km to 160 KM and from 160 km to above. the existing Paknet and Voolernet internet service providers have been directed to improve their services to ensure the quick and smooth link with the international network. Expanding internet facilities existing in Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Kotli, Bhimbher and other districts. Existing 16 digital telephone exchanges across the AJK. and expansion in the digital exchanges have already been made in Bhimbher, Bagh and Kotli districts in a total of 152 towns and villages by the end of 2003. Currently 140 telephone exchanges of different sorts including digital and non- digital were functioning in different parts of AJK. 20,000 new telephone connections in existing and remaining parts of the AJK, computerised BMIS billing system has recently been installed, the SCO was encouraging the involvement of the private sector to establish the ED-PCO’s (Extra Departmental Public Call Offices) across AJK. The number of the ED-PCOs in AJK has, so far, raised to 451 and the number of the SCO-controlled PCOs across the liberated territory has reduced to 56.

PAKISTAN TELECOMM SECTORS

 

2.0 Pakistan - BROADBAND Telecomm :

2.1 BROADBAND- Fiber-Optic Backbone - 1995

This was carried out in 1995 by Telstra [ Australian telecoms company] with the design of the repeater huts being done by Designman –an Islamabad civil engineering firm. Other private sector companies now actively involved in the expansion and development of telecom services are Tellabs and Newbridge-Alcatel for the Digital Cross-Connect Switches, and LTE Pakistan’s own Fiber-Optics cable manufacturer. Currently all major metropolitan Exchange-to-Exchange links are Fiber-Optic [henceforth " Fiber" ].According to the Chairman Akhtar Ahmed Bajwa ," …. On the national backbone log distance fiber links PTCL has hardly any spare capacity.However we have spare dark Fibers to be illuminated. PTCL sapre fiber pairs are now being lloaded with 10 Gb DWWDM equipment on backbone network within next 12 months. Dedicated capacity [ 400 to 500 Mbits(2/3) STM1 would be allocated for Data /Internet requirements in backbone network, once this project is implemented. The new DWDM project would provide capacity to PTCL at lower cost, which will enable further lowering of prices of leased capacities toISPs and other customers. …………………"

"PTCL has provided Universal Internet Access to 540 cities, towns, villages for the Internet . Some facts need to be considered like urban teledensity which in Pakistan is 10 % , The rural teledensity is less than 0.3 % on average. …….coming to the question of Ghotki , the population is 52,000 and there is a telephone exchange with capacity of 2,000.Ghotki is connected with Sukkur with a 2 MB [ 30 circuits] …all were meant for voice .Out of this 10 % are meant for Internet [ interview by A.M Bhatti – Internet Magazine Feb 2003]……….

UP COMING PROJECTS

2.0 Pakistan - BROADBAND Telecomm :

3.0 Internet Conectivity

4.0 UNDER-SEA Fiber- Optic Cable.

5.0 WIRELESS - CELLULAR / MOBILE TELECOMM SERVICES

6.0 CARD OPERATED PAY-PHONE SERVICES – 1998-2003

7.0 Satellite Communications

8.0 1997- Pakistan Data Networks:

 

9.0 VOICE TELEPHONE SERVICE

10.0 Convergent [ IT & Telecomm & Media] Technologies

11.0 SWOT ANALYSIS - Strengths

12.0 WEAKNESSES/ Pakistan Convergent Telecomm Deregulation - RISK FACTORS

De-regulation / Privatization Policies

Institutional Confusion or Over Control

13.0 OPPORTUNITIES

14 .0 THREATS -- COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS