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2015 in Review: Broadband Industry of Pakistan

Basic email and internet services (through dial-up) were introduced in Pakistan during early 1990s but it was only 2001 when Micronet introduced broadband services (DSL) in Pakistan for the first time. It was Micronet again in 2006 to introduce FTTH services in the country for the first time while Wateen initiated its WiMAX network in 2007 to start offering wireless broadband services in Pakistan.

With variety of broadband technologies available in Pakistan, it was only FY 2014-15 that saw the real growth in broadband sector after the auction of 3G/4G licenses.

Broadband penetration, from mere 2.07 percent in 2014 jumped to 12% in 2015, all thanks to millions of 3G/4G users during the year.

Major Broadband Technologies

At the end of Nov 2015, total number of broadband subscribers reached 24.78 million, out of which 21.68 million broadband users were on 3G/4G technology while remaining 1.5 million broadband users were on DSL and another 1.3 million on EvDO.

Clearly this huge uptake in broadband is result of 3G/4G services and interestingly less than 20% mobile phone users out of total 124 million subscribers have shifted to 3G/4G networks, indicating that there’s huge potential available in the market and this growing number of broadband users in Pakistan will only grow further for several years to come.

It would be interesting to note here that WiMAX operators lost over half a million subscribers — highest since WiMAX started in 2007 — during FY 2014-15, showing that consumers have started trusting 3G/4G networks for their primary internet needs.

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Major Broadband Players

As mentioned above, broadband market in Pakistan has undergone some drastic changes since the introduction of mobile broadband (3G/4G), that has actually changed the dynamics and market rating of operators.

Currently Mobilink, with its 6.8 million 3G users top the market, while PTCL — that had more than 80% shared till 2013-14 — had 2.6 million broadband users or around 10% market share of total broadband market.

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Note: PTCL’s figures in above graph are till June 2015 

Mobile Broadband Data Usage

As with other trends, data usage picked up real quick after the emergence of 3G/4G technologies. Data usage in Pakistan increased many folds during 2015. For example data consumed over mobile broadband networks in June 2015 (9,860 TBs) is six times more than the data usage in June 2014.

The trend of mobile broadband clearly shows that data usage is rising substantially with every passing month. This hints that potential of mobile broadband is humongous for new avenues of data-centric growth and economic activity.

With expanding 3G/4G coverage, the number of subscribers will also grow, leading to more data usage in the future.

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