February will long be remembered in Pakistan's telecom history when the country was awarded a prestigious Government Leadership Award-2006 for its tremendous achievements in mobile communications sector during the last three years.
The GSMA Award is a major honour for Pakistan and recognition of its progressive telecom policies and effective implementation of the deregulation process.
The award exists to recognize the exceptional work by governments globally in the field of mobile communications policy and this is only the second time when this award is being given to any country after Brazil by the GSM Association (GSMA) - a trade association, representing more than 680 mobile phone operators worldwide. Pakistan had already emerged as a success story in the telecom sector and registered an exponential growth owing to investment friendly policies and effective and transparent regulations by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
In Pakistan during last three years, massive growth has been registered in its telecom sector through fixed-line deregulation, and mobile cellular policies which have gone a long way in achieving their objectives in terms of infrastructure development, increase in investment and the range of quality and choice of services for customers, extension of telecom services to remote areas and encouragement of fair competition among operators.
The success of the policies was also reflected in the sector growth statistics which showed US $ 1.13 billion revenue generation from auction of frequency spectrum, $ 495 million Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in telecom area during 2004-05 while the fixed telephony also grew in a better way.
According to PTA, the fixed line connections witnessed a raise from 4.1 million in 2003 to 5.4 million in 2005 and mobile subscription from 2.4 million in 2003 to almost 23 million by January 2006. Overall telephone density has increased from 6.25 per cent in 2003-04 to about 18.81 per cent in January 2006. It is expected that the number of mobile phone subscribers would touch 50 million mark during next two to three years.
Minister for Information Technology, Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari and Chairman PTA Maj. Gen. (R) Shahzada Alam Malik received the Award on behalf of the government in a ceremony held at Spanish Capital Barcelona in the presence of exclusive gathering of mobile phone industry's CEOs and government ministers from across the world.
Awais Leghari told the delegates, the phenomenal growth figures had been achieved following a structured approach of liberalization, deregulation and privatization.
In his comments on this remarkable achievement, Chairman PTA said the mobile communications have revolutionized the socio- economic landscape of the Pakistani masses as every month around 1.5 million consumers are joining the ever-expanding mobile subscribers base.
In the month of December 2005 alone, 2.02 million people subscribed to the mobile phone service which shows the excellent growth potential of this segment.
"Now we are focusing on consumer-oriented Mobile Number Portability (MNP), value added economical telecom products and improved service quality," he added.
Pakistan is likely to attract up to US $ 4 billion investment in the telecom sector in the next three to four years given the tremendous scope for growth. The regulations formed and determinations issued by PTA have maintained balance between Mobile and Wireless Local Loop (WLL) operators. PTA will not allow any operator to violate its license conditions. WLL operators were allowed soft hand-off within home cell so that they can provide better quality of service.
Pakistan had launched a fast track process of ICT sector development which constituted an important item of agenda and vision of the government. Bridging the digital divide and building an information society through proliferation of telecommunication services could be possible only through quality human resource which required of the ITU member countries to further improve cooperation on eveloping ICT human resources, strengthen information and resources sharing, and promote participation of government, businesses and educational institutions, either through discussions or e-learning.
The mobile phone operators - Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Warid, Paktel and Instaphone are committed to developing infrastructure, sending out a clear signal to the international investment community that the country holds a tremendous potential.
So far the entire telecom sector has directly employed some 30,000-35,000 work force which is expected to increase considerably in future.
The remarkable accomplishment of Pakistan in telecom area was also appreciated by the Chief Executive of GSMA, Rob Conway, who acknowledged the initiatives of the regulator in enabling the spread of telecom services in the country.
Commenting on the GSM award given to Pakistan, CEOs of private companies said Pakistan deserves for this honour because it (Pakistan) possesses a huge potential for growth due to a better quality of services, availability of talent and the best technology.
No doubt the recognition of Pakistan's telecom policies by the international community proves credibility of the government through which it will further try to translate it into an advantage for the sector.