Monday, February 13, 2006
An award for telecom
Dawn's Editorial in today's edition: "WITH all the conspiracy theorists predicting gloom and doom for the country, the news that Pakistan has received an international award for progress and development made in its telecommunication sector proves that all is not that bad after all. It has been awarded the Government Leadership Award 2006 beating heavyweight India, a serious contender for the award. This is no small achievement in a highly competitive field. Recognized for its “remarkable work in the field” by the competitive board of Global System of Mobile Association, Pakistan was lauded for creating a booming mobile communication sector by reducing tariffs and expanding the mobile subscribers’ base to 20 million in just three years. Pakistan hopes to increase this base to 50 million in the next three to four years. This can be achieved provided that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s planned investment of Rs 20 billion in the telecom sector during 2004-5 materializes and it receives two billion dollars over the next few years. There are many indicators to prove that the time is ripe for investment in this sector. In the last year or so, two major international mobile phone operators opened shop here and have performed well. Then there are wireless loop operators entering the market with various high-tech options once unimaginable.The mobile phone is no longer a rich man’s luxury as it was at one time but a necessity for everyone. Those in the service sector — like plumbers and electricians — are now always available on the phone and it has opened new vistas for lower-income entrepreneurs, who, through various micro-finance schemes, can use their mobile phones to attract business. This conducive environment will allow more players into the market and give consumers a wider choice of networks to choose from. Once the option of mobile number portability comes into play — allowing consumers to switch networks without changing their existing mobile numbers — service providers will have no option but to ensure their network’s reliability and coverage as on that front many companies have been deficient. For this the PTA will have to play a more effective role as a regulatory body, checking telecom companies’ poor services and ensuring that consumers’ complaints are taken seriously."