Pakistan Archives — Page 7 of 12


At the end of a long day at Telecoms World South Asia in Dhaka, I presented some of the preliminary results of the Broadband QoSE work being done with IIT Madras. I talked about the finding that the bottleneck in Chennai and Colombo appeared to be the international segment and that the first results from the testing done in Dhaka suggested the same applied to Bangladesh, with the ISPs using satellite (versus undersea cable) were suffering very high latencies. The CEO of a Pakistan ISP, Mr Wahaj us Siraj, said that the situation in Pakistan was very different, with plenty of capacity available on the undersea cables and low contention ratios (1:4) being used. Prices of international capacity had come down radically in recent times, he said, and now amount to only around 25 per cent of costs. I responded that we need to start testing in Pakistan soon, because this further illustrates the value of the AshokaTissa methodology, which allows the diagnosis of where problems exist which may vary from location to location.
An article entitled, ‘Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Beyond Universal Access’, co-authored by Harsha de Silva and Ayesha Zainudeen, has been published in Telektronikk, a leading telecommunications journal, published by Telenor, Norway. Appearing in the journal’s second issue for 2008, aptly titled, ‘Emerging Markets in Telecommunications’, the article explores the extent to which “universal access” to telecommunications has been achieved  in Asia, based on findings from LIRNEasia’s five-country study of the use of telecommunication services at the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’, namely in India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Very high levels of access, but low levels of ownership are found. The paper then looks at the potential benefits that these non-owner users are missing out on, and then goes on to look at the key barriers to ownership that are faced by them. The paper estimates that there could be close to 150 million new subscribers at the BOP in these five countries by mid-2008.
Telecompk.net is carrying a multi-part interview with one of the recent and more active universal service funds in the region. Part 1 is here.
Last Friday, I was invited to speak at an awards ceremony for the winners of Colomba Wate, a mobile game in Sinhala.   The young entrepreneur had given up a cushy university job to start the company, Gamos Technology Solutions.   That was perhaps the main reason I agreed to speak at his event within hours of returning to Sri Lanka. The slides that I used to illustrate my talk are here.  The basic thesis was that the mobile is now becoming more than voice, or even an Aladdin’s Lamp, to use Muhammed Yunus’ phrase.
Asia Pacific telecom operators had a big party in Colombo this week. They were celebrating the 21 st anniversary of the global mobile standard, GSM. Despite a few puzzlingly sexist comments about the significance of the 21 st birthday to a “Young Girl” (as though it was not significant for a male) it was a good party. Anyway, the point is that it was not just fun and games. The conference that followed was a serious one.
Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Dr. Muhammad Yaseen has said that data usage is increasing in Pakistan and proliferation of broadband services will help establish Information Society. He was talking in a seminar on The Future of Mobile Communications in Pakistan. Chairman PTA said that for mobile phone industry future direction could be value addition and innovation in services including mobile commerce, video streaming, and high speed mobile internet. He said presently broadband costs are high in the country but broadband usage was showing growth in the recent quarter.
Aug 26, 2008, telecomasia.net Asia’s emerging markets, comprising eight nations, are expected to see mobile subscriber net gains of 573 million by end-2012, breaching the one billion mark to close the year at an estimated 1.06 billion subscribers, a report from research firm Frost & Sullivan said. In 2007, these emerging markets were home to some 487 million mobile users, accounting for 37.1% of Asia-Pacific’s total mobile subscriber base, the report said.
In one of the two websites it runs, Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) gives its mission statement – which is cut and pasted below: “To create the optimum conditions for the telecommunications industry in Sri Lanka by serving the public interest in terms of quality, choice and value for money; the service providers with equitable access to spectrum and other common resources; and the nation in its drive for socio-economic advancement through a skilled and ethical workforce.” We are surprised to see pornography not mentioned – considering the latest task TRCSL has been assigned  –  blocking porno. Lankadeepa reports only about blocking pornographic movies and video clips, not images. Assumed strict enforcement, this can lead to the ban of not just YouTube but Gmail and Yahoomail also, because pornography videos can easily be distributed via e-mail. For the record, except for few countries including Cuba and North Korea, which had restricted Internet access in full (not just porno sites) no country in general blocks porno sites.
A few days ago, we learned that Major General Shahzada Alam Malik (Retd.) had stepped down from the leadership of the Pakistan Telecom Authority. We believe that his seven-year tenure at the helm of the PTA merits an assessment. It begins thus: Pakistan’s recent telecom developments constitute a South Asian success story. From two million in 2002, the number of active mobile SIMs increased to 79 million by end 2007.
A recent LIRNEasia media outreach effort timed to coincide with the upcoming SAARC Summit in Colombo has been picked up by AFP. Leaving aside the question of the operators in the SAARC countries collectively lowering their termination rates to make possible more reasonable intra-SAARC call charges, the data also show that Pakistan has the overall lowest international telecom prices and Nepal has the highest. Hopefully, some of these prices will come down, now that the comparisons have been made! South Asian leaders urged to slash telco tariffs – LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE Calls were cheapest in Pakistan, where fixed and mobile phone users pay three US cents a minute to call many non-SAARC destinations, including the United States and Hong Kong. But users pay 12 US cents to call Bangladesh and India.

Will you be virtual too?

Posted on May 14, 2008  /  1 Comments

LIRNEasia might not be as high tech as some of the big IT players but in our own way we have made a successful effort to make ourselves a virtual team. Not a choice – that was the only way we could operate in multiple countries (For example, in this cycle, TRE surveys will be in nine countries –  Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand; not to mention CPRSouth 3 in Beijing)without budgets comparable to what INGOs use to run regional networks. We also thought our own experiences will be useful for others. Hence the Virtual Organisation (VO)  project. It had two aspects; developing the VO and using it to conduct LIRNEasia’s other research projects.
The 2008 Global Information Technology Report prepared for the World Economic Forum shows the five big countries of the SAARC backsliding in the rankings with  small exceptions in the case of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which advanced from 86th place to 76th (using only 2006 countries; otherwise to 79th place) and from 118th place to 116th (again using only 2006 countries; if not, it would be in 124th place), respective.ly. India went from 44th place to 48th (2006 countries only; if not 50th).  Pakistan from 84 to 85 (actual rank 89) and Nepal from 108th place to 111th (actual rank 119). The full report is here

Media Coverage on Mobile Benchmarks

Posted on March 26, 2008  /  1 Comments

23/03/08: Mobile phone service costs in Sri Lanka are cheap, even for the poor (Sinhala), Ravaya, Sri Lanka 25/03/08: Mobile is cheaper in Sri Lanka, even for the poor, The Daily News, Sri Lanka Two recent studies have found that Sri Lanka is among four countries that offer the most affordable mobile services to the poor in emerging Asia and the world. The first study conducted the LIRNEasia, a regional policy and regulation think tank, has found that the costs of using mobile telecom services are among the lowest in South Asia for all types of users. For the low user, essentially the poorer user, the average monthly cost of using a mobile in Sri Lanka is as low as US$ 3.83 per month if using prepaid. Sri Lanka came in fourth place in the affordability rankings for low users, not too far behind Bangladesh (USD2.
LIRNEasia researchers will participate at the International Communication Association conference in Montreal, Canada, May 21-26, 2008. Rohan Samarajiva will present a paper based on LIRNEasia‘s study on the gendered aspects of telecommunications use in emerging Asia, entitled, ‘Who’s Got the Phone? The Gendered Use of Telephones at the Bottom of the Pyramid‘. Abstract: ‘Much has been said about women’s access to and use of the telephone. Many studies conclude that a significant gender divide in access exists particularly in developing countries.
According to LIRNEasia’s latest comparative study of price and affordability indicators in eight South Asian countries, Bangladesh emerges as having the lowest average monthly cost of using a mobile at all levels of use (low, medium and high) for different tariff plans (prepaid and postpaid). Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka follow closely, while Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan are seen to have significantly higher average monthly mobile costs. The study compares mobile tariffs in South Asia using price baskets, derived from those used by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The baskets are calculated for low, medium and high users for pre- as well as postpaid tariff plans, factoring in usage charges (voice and SMS), line rental, connection charges (depreciated over a three year period), and applicable taxes. For more information on results and methodology, please click HERE.
The Economist is not correct saying ‘No Evidence’ of Internet blocking in Sri Lanka, and in Laos and Cambodia the Internet usage is low so blocking does not make any difference. As shown, even in Asia the attitude of officialdom varies when it comes to filtering content of a social nature. In many places agreements are set with service providers to block nasty stuff such as child pornography. In a few countries intervention is stronger, up to the level of pervasive censorship. This week Pakistan’s block on YouTube accidentally caused an international outage for that website.