4G spreading in Pakistan but rural challenges remain – R&M

4G spreading in Pakistan but rural challenges remain – R&M

Pakistan's telecom market has been struggling for a long time with the transition from a regulated state-owned monopoly to a deregulated competitive structure, according to Research & Markets.

The government has been active in providing capital for country's telecom sector, and the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have also input capital.

The fixed line market in Pakistan remains underdeveloped due to the dominance of the mobile segment. Further, the number of fixed telephone lines is slowly declining as the mobile segment continues to expand. Overall penetration dropped from 2.6% in 2014 to 1.9% in 2015 and 1.5% in 2017. The market is predicted to decline further over the next five years to 2022 as the mobile segment continues to grow for both voice and data/broadband usage.

The country's mobile operators are all fighting for a larger share of the market, forcing down prices and subsequently ARPU. The operators have been shifting their focus to Value Added Services (VAS) in order to improve revenues. 4G network rollouts continue across the country. By 2017 over 30% of Pakistan population was covered by a 4G network.

In 2017 Mobilink and Warid merged their operations into a single brand, Jazz, which saw the number of mobile operators reduce from six to five. Further market consolidation is predicted over the next five years as the operating margins of the major operators come under further pressure.

Two main challenges facing mobile operators in Pakistan remain: a largely rural population with up to 70% of the population live in rural areas and difficulty serving those areas of the country that are politically unstable.

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