Thursday, November 04, 2004

Pakistan's broadband policy draft released

You can download the 453KB PDF file from the IT Division's page. Email address provided for feedback.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whose IT division's page?

Tee Emm said...

Cabinet's IT Division.

Zunaira said...

The news headline also links to the relevant page where you will find the IT and Telecom Division [which comes under MoITT].

Anonymous said...

Da PDF iz corrupted. Don' open... :-(

Teeth Maestro said...

on the lighter side - we now have a corrupt (PDF) policy. Could not expect anythign less from the Paki Gov

Merlinx said...

Yeah just what we need next...PDF file corruption at the highest levels of government. Maybe someone should refer the case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for further investigation and sentence the errant PDF. :-)

Zunaira said...

Before jumping the gun gentlemen, I'd suggest you download the PDF on your own terminals. I've downloaded it twice at work in the morning and the 42 page file opened nicely. I downloaded it again some hours back at home and am halfway reading through the 42-pager. Goodluck.

Merlinx said...

My Gawd! Da lady is surely right. :-) Sorry folks, my mistake. I was accidentally opening it with an older version of Acrobat Reader and that was why I was getting an error. It opens ok with Reader 6.0.

Merlinx said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Zunaira said...

There is considerable emphasis on developing local content and hosting services to fully appreciate the broadband revolution in the policy. From where we are standing in terms of skill set and infrastructure, is there sufficient grounds for such a proposition? Also, the policy considers offering 100MB mailboxes by ISPs to draw people to local POPs. It can supplement Gmail surely but rather antiquated notion this one. What do you all think?

AllahBaba said...

broadband policy? broadband policing is more like it.

how can you guys seriously debate draft policies when the authors are a bunch of ABCEDIC-ASCII-UNIVAC era academics who'd get a thrill out of punch-card readers if sold to them through proper 'pre-qualification' notices in "major" dailies (some of them in regional languages for cyring out loud!!)

besides, u just can't jump over to broadband because it's out there! how about an ass-kicking policy for dialup clowns first?

Huq Allllllahhhh... Hu!

Badar Khushnood said...

It is almost 11 pm on Nov 07 and I can't resolve pakistan.gov.pk while connected to internet with 100K WorldCall cable in Lahore!

Trace route from centralops.net to pakistan.gov.pk [216.15.151.20] completed in 12 hops.

Any alternate sites with the PK Broadband Policy? Or can anyone email a PDF copy!

Merlinx said...

Z->Yes, true. The thing is that a national IT policy needs to focus on setting up the playing field rather than defining the game to be played within that playing field. That is the job of the teams and players. The government needs to concern itself within providing good infrastructure, cutting process red-tapism and creating a conducive environment for broadband to work. Do you think the U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) worries about mailbox capacity wars between Google and Y! when it revises rules? If the federal govt. is worried about mailbox sizes in defining the national broadband policy then it is micro-managing things and not focusing where it really should. Mailbox sizes and this type of stuff are trends that come and go. Yesterday it was Y!, today people are going goo-goo over Google, tomorrow something else will come along. A govt. ministry needs to look beyond fashions and focus on needs at a national level and look into the future. The only concern it should have at such a low-level is regulation of activities.

Local content development *may* be a policy issue rather than a trend because there is a famous quotation that says, "If you want to destroy a nation or civilization, destroy its language." Protecting local content can be construed in the higher plane of cultural protection and promotion. There is a certain gray area between how far the MoITT should get involved and what should be left to the society to evolve. But I personally support any clauses that emphasize local content development on cultural rather than technical grounds.

Other than that, for those keeping up with the latest trends in broadband, the focus now is on Wi-Fi and high-speed, broadcast wireless access. In this context, we need to innovate rather than copy. The national policy seems to want to focus on chronologically going through what other countries did. If others graduated from dial-up to DSL or cable and then to Wi-Fi, do we need to do the same? I think it should be a policy priority to usher in the Wi-Fi era now and cut through the DSL/cable era if possible. After all, looking at the way cellular telephony has picked up here and is on the boom, we probably have some of the foundation stones for Wi-Fi. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have DSL or cable, just that we shouldn't wait to get to the Wi-Fi era another 5 years from now.

I read the policy and I think it is a good effort but I felt it is more concerned with the past, present and short-term future rather than medium or long-term future needs and goals. The roadmap (section 9.0, which actually defines the milestones according to the policy document) is 1 page out of the 42 and barely a few lines at that. The roadmap looks like more of a wishlist than a plan; it needs more substance.

SQ said...

Actually, I think it would be preferable to have larger local mailboxes, that are both POP and web-enabled. It will save on bandwidth for everyone (since now everyone will be accessing their mailbox locally), and will be heck of a lot faster.

Now only if ISPs didn't go around selling their user lists, then we could get rid of the spam too.

KO said...

Merlinx, spot-on analysis! Have you emailed it to the ministry? I got that same impression of a horse wearing blinkers trying hard to draw its carriage while the rest of the world is busy moving on to planes trains and automobiles... PTCL only has 4.5 million telephone connections - even if DSL spreads to all of these 4.5 million connections, thats just a few percentage of the country. Why are they trying so hard to push it? What do they get out of it? And why does the Ministry care what sort of technology is being used anyways? They just need to get rid of the red tape and stand out of the way.

Merlinx said...

Thanks! Yep, I did send some recommendations to the MoITT. Let's hope they don't have a spam filter set on the feedback that deletes it. ;-)

Ref local mailboxes: That may not be a bad idea. The immediate advantage is definitely a reduction in inter'l traffic because the majority of the people use free-mail services including Y!, Hotmail and others. I am not sure how technically viable it will be to implement though off the cuff. The thing is that what makes these services free [for the users] overseas is a massive online advertising industry. Who would fund free-mail on such a large scale in Pakistan? The media of choice for advertising in Pakistan are print or TV broadcast, not online. There are maybe a few hundred thousand Internet users in all here. There simply isn't a user-base large enough in Pakistan to generate the kind of revenue needed to provide free email services following the Western model.

As far as making ISP's mailboxes larger is concerned, that would also require a massive investment in h/w. Think about it. Right now, a single ISP can host all his customers' mailboxes on a handful of hard disks because the mailboxes are perhaps 5 MB in size. Suddenly multiplying mailbox capacities 20 [or more] times would require a huge investment for ISP's (it's not just a matter of putting in additional hard disks and getting it over with; ask any ISP executive and he or she will immediately tell you there is a whole LOT more than that!) Who's going to put that investment on the table? The idea of local mailboxes is not bad but I am not sure the economics can immediately be worked out unless some philanthrops are willing to come forward and fork out the dough.

KO said...

About hard drive prices - capacity has gone up exponentially, while prices have fallen through the floor - recently i bought a 200 gigabyte harddrive for less than a I bought a 10 gig one just a few years ago. The numbers don't add up - Google estimated that it costs less than a dollar a year to provide a gig of space per user for Gmail - this includes all costs. You can find this info. in a google employee blog somewhere... I don't remember where now. Also to provide a gig of space per user, you don't actually need to have that much available.

Merlinx said...

Yep. Quite true! But I wonder whether the same statistics also apply here...in Pakistan, I meant? ;-) The hourly billing model is virtually unheard-of in the West even for broadband now and we can't even ditch it here for dial-up Net access; dial-up still sells on an hourly cost here in the broadband age. Ever wonder why? It does have something to do with the economics.

If you're saying that it costs $1 per user per mailbox per year and let's say an ISP here has 100,000 customers, they'll be spending $100K per year for that? For someone like Y! or Google, $100K is probably peanuts, but what about our 3rd world ISPs? Would our ISPs be willing to spend that much for larger mailboxes? Even using average consumption (vs. maximum space consumption), it still would come to an extra $30-40K per year maybe?

It would be interesting to see someone do a statistical calculation of the cost of offering a gig-mailbox over here and see where we stand relative to providers like Google or Y!. That might be a good foundation stone in projecting the financial feasability of larger mailboxes over here from ISPs. I'm not sure what our cost index would be but it would be interesting to know. E.g. if it is nearly the same or substantially higher, etc. And how much more would ISPs be willing to spend without raising billing rates and whether any ISPs would agree to give larger mailboxes or not? Maybe any researchers or reporters should contact any ISPs and find out these questions. It would make for an interesting report to write about [in Spider].

SQ said...

Merlinx...so let's go with your numbers and do some math. Say $30K per year per ISP to give large mailboxes. $30K * 60 = Rs. 1,800,000 per year per ISP. Rs. 1,800,000 / 12 = Rs. 150,000 per month per ISP.

That might not be peanuts for some of the smaller ISPs, but for some of the larger ones it probably is. Even if you insist that it's not peanuts for the larger ones, it is still a _very_ affordable amount for them to pay to provide their users with larger mailboxes.

Also, I think you misunderstood my comment about web-based email. The ISPs should provide both web and POP access for the mailboxes. Hence I'm not saying that it should be free like Hotmail or Gmail. It would just be part of your account with the ISP. Most ISPs already offer web access to email, but the user interface is pretty sucky.

As for dial-up access being sold by the hour and still sucking: Most of us don't realize that this is a very vicious cycle. The slower the ISP is, the more money it makes them. Wanna know how? Well, the slower the ISP is, the more time it takes you to download a file. The more time that you stay online, the more money the ISP makes. So they have no incentive whatsoever to increase their bandwidth. If they increase bandwidth, you get your file faster (or check your email faster, or browse faster), and they lose money. So then why should any ISP increase their bandwidth? In Pakistan, it isn't about providing good service, or about customer satisfaction. It's about making money at the customer's expense (literally).

Merlinx said...

Ok I see. About the Webmail access, I think at least some ISPs do provide access via both POP and Web. At least the few ones I had the chance of using do. Don't know which ones don't have dual-access. About dial-up, I guess someone needs to take the first step of moving towards a different model, so others will follow suit out of sheer competition. Our society has more copycats than innovators.