WLL subscribers cross one million mark
By Imran Ayub
KARACHI: Wireless local loop (WLL) subscriber base has crossed a million mark for the first time in Pakistan while operators and experts estimate it may grow by 100 per cent during current financial year. Figures compiled by the telecom watchdog suggest total number of WLL subscribes touched 1.12 million across the country and predictions are that another one million customers could be added by the end of June 2007. “In absolute terms total number of WLL subscribers stands at 1,120,439,” said a telecom source citing the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) figures. “As a major operator PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited) has larger share in total customers than any other operators in the country.” He said by the end of last fiscal PTCL enjoyed total 704,617 WLL customers followed by TeleCard, which shared 247,751 subscribers. Similarly, he said the World Call had 138,071 WLL subscribers and Great Bear was serving 30,000 connections by the end of last financial year. “It shows a growth of over 300 per cent, as by the end of 2004-05 total number of WLL subscribers stood at 265,028 and the newly-introduced technology has much more potential to grow in the years to come,” he added. Following the telecom deregulation in 2003, the PTA issued licenses to private operators to introduce conventional and WLL telephony service across the country breaking over five-decade monopoly of the PTCL. The telecom regulator issued some 84 licenses to 36 companies for fixed line local loop (FLL). It awarded 90 licenses to fifteen companies for WLL service and 12 licenses were issued for long distance international (LDI) operations. Since then the two segments – WLL and LDI – have witnessed a growth, which has not been tested by any other service provider and experts believe the windfall to continue. “The thing is PTCL is the largest conventional telephony service provider, which is focusing expansion more through WLL service and it would ultimately trigger growth in the particular technology,” said Muniza Imtiaz, a research analyst at AKD Securities. She said the WLL technology had all such features, which could replace the conventional and copper wire telephony and going forward it could turn into preferred choice of the subscribers in the country.
“We estimate that by the end of 2006-07 the WLL technology could add more 900,000 or a million subscribers across the country,” she added.
Cellular service, which witnessed a sharp jump in subscriber base, is another segment, which is fast replacing the conventional copper wire telephony. Cell phone subscriber base grew by over 170 per cent during 2005-06, as continued popularity of the mobile phone service outnumbered almost six-decade old fixed telephony service by more than 500 percent in 15-year operations. The figures compiled by the PTA showed cellular phone connections stood at over 34 million by June 2006, which crossed 12 million marks by the end of 2004-05.
Analysts see growth in cellular subscribers in line with expectations, but say in the current fiscal the service may not witness such phenomenal jump in customers’ numbers, which have already reached to a higher level. “The growth is likely to remain slow in percentage term during 2006-07,” said Anwaar Ahmed Khan, a telecom analyst at Capital One Equities. “The companies may enter into those areas where they have yet to initiate service, which would need network expansion and investment.” He said a cutthroat competition was expected among the operators during 2006-07, when all the six cellular operators implemented the mobile number portability across the country.
Source: The News