Despite relatively weaker signals in some areas and expensive compatible handsets, the use of 4G/LTE services is gradually gathering momentum, as more people opt for upgrades.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) reported that one-third of the total upgraded mobile phone internet users opted for 4G networks in the single month of August 2016.
A total of 919,513 phone users upgraded to 3G/4G mobile internet broadboard during the month. Close to 35% (or 319,394) users switched on 4G networks while the remaining 65% (or 600,119) upgraded to 3G networks from 2G and/or basic voice services.
The portion of the increase in 4G/LTE subscribers remained at 27% in August 2015.
Noman Said, an expert on information and communication technology, said that this was a good omen since more mobile phone users were moving on to the latest available internet technology.
“Internet signals on 4G/LTE networks are not widely available – not just in rural areas but in urban centres and developed cities as well,” he said. He said steep fluctuations in signals on the 4G/LTE networks were part of the routine.
Presently, Warid Telecom – which is currently being merged with Mobilink – and China Mobile (Zong) are offering 4G/LTE services in the country. Telenor Pakistan has also recently acquired the licence to offer 4G services.
Overall, however, the pace of growth in subscribers on 3G/4G networks slowed down in the month of August 2016 as only 919,513 users upgraded to the services as compared to 2.25 million in July 2016.
On average 1 million mobile phone users are upgrading to 3G/4G services every month.
ICT experts, including Parvez Iftikhar, are of the opinion that the availability of low-cost smartphones, aggressive roll-out of apps and availability of low-cost internet packages from mobile phone companies will keep users incentivised to go for the upgrade.
The availability of social networking apps like Whatsapp and Facebook has played a significant role in attracting huge traffic on mobile internet.
The introduction of advanced internet services in 2014 is making its contribution in helping the economy at large.
The launch of online shopping portals, internet banking and roll-out of mobile money transfer by almost all cellular companies have also helped attract higher traffic on 3G/4G networks.
Meanwhile, total mobile internet subscribers grew 2.89% to 32.69 million in August 2016 from 31.77 million in July 2016.
The total number of mobile phone users, including those not on 3G/4G/LTE networks, was up to 133.90 million in August from 133.28 million in the previous month of July.
By Salman Siddiqui