KARACHI: 3G and 4G mobile internet subscriptions crossed a milestone 30 million users in July 2016 ─ more than double the number of subscriptions in the corresponding period last year ─ according to data available with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
There were around 31.78m 3G and 4G subscribers in July 2016 as compared to 14.61m subscribers in July 2015.
The greatest number of mobile internet subscribers are on the Mobilink network, followed by Telenor and Zong. During this time period, China Mobile's Zong offered 4G services and Warid offered LTE services.
Despite a drop of 25.31m in the total number of cellular subscribers from 139.97m in 2013-14 to 114.66m in 2014-15, 3G and 4G subscriptions rose to 13.5m in 14-15 when the services were rolled out to mobile users.
The fall in total mobile users may be attributed to the mass blocking of unverified and unclaimed SIM cards in the wake of the government's biometric verification initiative for SIMs as part of counter-terrorism measures under the National Action Plan.
This drop, however, did not appear to impact the demand for the 3G and 4G services at the time.
Although PTA data shows steady increase in the use of broadband internet services (excluding mobile internet) from 2010 onwards, a drop in the use of these services coincides with the introduction of 3G and 4G mobile internet services in 2014.
The number of 3G and 4G users also registered a sharper increase over the course of one year than that of broadband internet users over the past 10 years.
An examination of the number of other broadband users shows that almost all other categories ─ DSL, HFC, WiMAX and EvDO ─ have decreased after 2014-15, while the number of people using the high-speed fibre optic cable internet services and 'Other' services has increased.
One reason behind the drop in the number of users of popular broadband options like DSL and EvDO could be that the increased cellular teledensity in Pakistan and availability of affordable mobile internet packages are encouraging more users to turn towards mobile internet.
Pakistan has also seen greater smartphone penetration in areas that do not yet have access to other broadband infrastructure. More and more people are accessing the internet for the first time in their lives ─ but they are doing so through smartphones.
Mobile internet usage trends suggest users are consuming more data on their mobile phones than in the past, and want access to faster mobile internet.
An increasing trend in FTTH broadband internet subscribers shows users are increasingly turning towards higher-speed internet.
It is worth noting, however, that Pakistan's average mobile internet speed is among the lowest in the world at 3.33Mbps, according to a recent OpenSignal report. South Korea has the world's highest average mobile internet speed at 41.34Mbps.