Earlier this month Xiaomi Inc., one of the world’s leading smartphone manufacturers, made headlines for allegedly being ‘banned’ in Pakistan. The news, which caught the attention of tech geeks and mobile enthusiasts alike, surfaced after an e-commerce website by the name of Xiaomipk.com posted an email from Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) asking them to cease their operations.
Through further investigation it was found out that the site was run by a third party vendor who posed as an affiliate of Xiaomi Inc.
The third-party had earlier cited bias in PTA’s decision to stop them from selling the smartphones. This created speculation that other mobile brands were behind the ban to prevent a potentially strong, competitive rival from entering the market.
Phones have to be approved before being sold
But did PTA really bow down to the demands of key players in Pakistan’s mobile phone market?
According to the Telecom Act 1996, devices such as mobile phones have to be "type approved" by PTA before being sold in the country. This is not only the case in Pakistan, but all over the world. Xiaomipk.com ignored proper business protocol and was operating without obtaining said approvals.
PTA spokesperson, Khurram Mehran said that the only application they received was for the sale of Xiaomi Mi 4i smart phone, but that too from a different vendor.
"As part of evaluation process the device documentation was reviewed and Operating System Testing was performed. During evaluation it was revealed that Mi 4i device has certain features which are not in accordance with the required specifications and legal provisions, therefore, type approval has yet not been granted.”
While it may not be abundantly clear what these features are, vendors may submit their applications again after fulfilling PTA’s requirement. It is important to note that once type approval is granted, anyone can market and sell the smartphone. Until that happens, imports of Xiaomi phones will also be stopped at customs, even if you buy it on e-commerce websites such as AliExpress.com.
Xiaomi wanted 'illegal site' shut down
It is clear that Xiaomi Inc. had no actual hand in the whole debacle.
According to Xiaomi’s Communications Manager, Kaylene Hong, it is the exact opposite.
"Xiaomi has a very good working relationship with the PTA and we believe that with PTA’s support, we will be able to sell Xiaomi smartphones soon in Pakistan through partners,” she said. Hong also clarified that currently Xiaomi is not selling smart phones in Pakistan, calling reports of such information misleading.
Hong also denied Xiaomi Inc. having any connections with Xiaomipk.com and appreciated the actions PTA had taken against the unauthorized reseller who was infringing on their policy and copyright.
“We have requested the domain web host to immediately take steps to take down the illegal website which is an infringement of Xiaomi’s intellectual property rights,” she added.
The episode has caused Xiaomipk.com to pack their bags and shut down operations. Perhaps the only positive outcome of this situation has been the level of interest the populace has shown in the company’s devices.
While Xiaomi Inc. has outlined their expansion plan for other countries, Pakistan seems to be missing on the map. Hopefully recent events cause them to consider, or at the very least get type approval from PTA for private buyers to import Xiaomi devices from online stores.