The news: The usage of the internet has risen by 25% during the covid-19 pandemic, signifying a shift in consumer behavior in Pakistan with regards to telecom. The population has moved from voice calling to increased data usage during the lockdown periods which were implemented to curb the spread of the covid-19 pandemic.
Infrastructure sharing: To address this shift and satisfy the rising demand of the internet, the telecom sector will require a reduction in costs regarding infrastructure. According to Arif Hussain, edotco Pakistan’s managing director, this will create space for more submarine cable companies in the Pakistani market. He suggested that the tower and other infrastructure sharing models can reduce capital and operating expenditure for the telecom sector while allowing them to penetrate wider markets including Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, and former FATA.
Providing services: Hussain said the telecom sector has learned many lessons in the year 2020. Due to the global pandemic, the need for reliable data and the internet has been highlighted. The use of the internet among Pakistanis increased by 25% whereas the revenues from the voice traffic declined by around 10%. Not only did it emphasize the necessity of providing services in underdeveloped areas, but also created opportunities for providing improved and innovative services in existing network areas. According to official data, at least 50 million Pakistanis, who are 25% of the total population, do not have access to basic telephonic services. The government has greenlighted initiatives to provide this population with access to telecom networks and internet services.
Submarine cable companies: With a significant rise in the use of the internet in the country, two submarine cables are presently working to provide connections for the population. The development of infrastructure to install a third cable is also underway and is expected to be functional by next year. A fourth submarine cable company has plans to install a cable with a landing station in Gwadar. This cable will run along the coastal highway to Karachi. More companies are expected to enter the market soon.
Across the board: Hussain said that the use of broadband internet is not limited to entertainment programs, social media, or corporate objectives for the upper class. The telecom industry now understands that in a post-coronavirus world, users across various socio-economic backgrounds require significant data access and that the next step is to improve their coverage. He pointed toward the various social media platforms which are used by people across professions, ages, and classes. Hussain said that workmen use them to improve their skills, and during the pandemic a number of housewives have established micro-level businesses using these platforms. He explained that because these people are earning from the internet, they are willing to pay for it too.