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Enter 3G: A question of scale, speed, reliability

Updated April 24, 2014

The long-awaited 3G and 4G Spectrum Auction commenced and closed yesterday, after eight rounds of bidding as a result of which, the Government of Pakistan has managed to successfully raise $1.1 billion.

Out of the four telecom providers competing in this auction, Mobilink, Telenor and Ufone managed to secure 3G licences, where as Zong owned by China Mobile, is the only one to have secured both a 3G and a 4G license.

Third Generation mobile broadband internet providers must offer peek data transfer rates of at least 200kbps apart from meeting technical standards for speed and reliability. This does not mean it’s restricted to that speed; some 3G providers exceed more than 10 times that.


Also read: Pakistan joins the 3G club


To be able to call them selves Fourth Generation the network provider must offer peak data rates of at least 100Mbps for high mobility communication (users in trains or cars), and at least 1Gbps for low mobile communication (pedestrians and stationary users).

It is a strange thing to note that according to a PEW research report published in February, only 53 per cent of Pakistanis own a cellphone, out of those only 3 per cent are smartphone users.

Given that, there is said to be 180 million of us, all this fuss is essentially over 6 million subscribers.

Since this is still a business venture and telecoms have spent a fortune on putting systems in place to facilitate this technology, in addition to the licenses themselves, what we all do not realise is that billions are intended to be made through just 6 million people. Even if you quadruple those - billions through 24 million, it still does not sound that great.

Tariff plans are sure to be the next cause for concern for the data hungry lot, as with speed improvements there will be a new kind of internet usage, which includes game downloads while using mobile data, multiplayer games being played over mobile internet and not restricting them to Wi-Fi only access points.

Even though these tasks may not be painfully slow, there is no guarantee that they will not be painfully expensive. Personally, the excitement is coupled with anxiety about the scale, speed and reliability of the infrastructure put into place.

Additionally with the availability of third and fourth generation mobile broadband internet, people would want to use more out of their cellphones which may not be entirely possible since there is a lack of services provided in Pakistan.

These application assisted services generally come hand in hand with such speeds like map functionality and speech-based assistance which uses grid systems to guide you to closest Chinese restaurant or list book shops in the area.