ISLAMABAD: The number of smartphone users has surpassed those using old-school 2G sets for the first time in the country, the telecom regulator said in its latest annual report.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in its annual report 2021 also highlighted several other achievements, including the broadband subscribers crossing the 100 million mark during the year, which played a key role in boosting telecom industry’s revenue.

The industry paid Rs179 billion in terms of general sales tax, withholding tax, customs duty and other taxes in the fiscal year 2020-21 compared to Rs148.9bn a year ago, the report said.

The PTA report shows that the country’s success in fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and strategic manoeuvres towards industry facilitation and consumer protection paved the way for all-inclusive connectivity and overall growth of the sector.

Broadband subscribers cross 100m mark, says PTA annual report

The report stated that for the first time, smartphones had outnumbered feature phones 2G, capturing 52 per cent market share against 48pc by the 2G sets, reversing the market trend witnessed in 2019-20. In the financial year 2017-18, 2G sets had a market share of almost 60pc in the country.

Expressing confidence over the success of government’s Digital Pakistan initiative, IT and Telecom Minister Syed Aminul Haque said policies made in 2020 had started producing results.

“Certain policy relaxations and the initiative to start mobile phones manufacturing in the country has led to a major change in the overall telecom scenario,” he said.

Mobile sets’ imports dropped from 24.51m in 2020 to 10m in 2021, as the number of locally assembled phones reached 24.65m.

However, most locally assembled phones were 2G devices, as their number stood at around 14.6m compared to 10m smartphones.

The report shows that 30 companies have obtained licences for mobile sets production, including the world’s biggest smartphone maker Samsung.

It also highlights that the number of broadband subscribers reached 102.7m subscribers in 2021.

Besides, telecom and ICT services have a nationwide spread of 89pc of the population, while up to 49pc Pakistanis have mobile broadband connections. With the expansion of 3G and 4G services, broadband data usage increased 52pc during 2020-21 to 6,855 petabytes (one petabyte equals 1,000 terabytes).

As a result of increased internet usage, the telecom sector’s revenue touched its highest level of Rs644bn during the financial year.

Digital financial inclusion also witnessed a massive rise, with active mobile wallet accounts growing 72pc to around 46m from 26.7m a year ago. As a result, the number of active mobile wallet agents, who are identified in the “branchless banking” category, reached 246,280 with an increase of 35pc over the last year.

Jazz remains the market leader with 69.79m mobile subscribers and 38.45m mobile broadband subscribers. Telenor has the second-highest number of 49.27m subscribers, followed by Zong (40.49m) and Ufone (23.11m).

The PTA has highlighted that in the current year — i.e. 2021-22 — the focus will remain on monitoring the quality of service and its coverage, launching additional spectrum, initiating the rollout of 5G and increasing network area of fibre optics across the country.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2022

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