PTA’s Consultation Paper on NGN

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has released a ‘consultation paper‘ on its website for public comments. Those who might be short on time to formally comment on the paper can use the comment space here and I will try to incorporate the inputs in my response.

Broadband Penetration – MoITT, USF @ Work

Universal Service Fund (USF) is the company formed to make use of the USF money that PTA has been generating out of the booming telecoms market of Pakistan. So far, USF has worked towards using its funds for the spread of voice services in the under-served markets of Pakistan. Of late, Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunication has intended to guide USF to do the same towards increasing broadband penetration too.

USF, after some initial work, has concluded that there are no particular areas that could be defined as ‘under-served’ in terms of Pakistan and rather the entire Pakistan is under-served. USF has now asked MoITT to pass a ‘determination’ towards the same fact allowing USF to utilize the funds anywhere and everywhere in Pakistan.

MoITT has published a 39 page study document on the web which seeks to establish this fact (that the entire Pakistan is under-served in broadband services). A consultation session was held in Islamabad yesterday to discuss this matter with the industry. The proceedings and details of the session are still to come out but here are my initial takes on the document and its contents:

The  major conclusion points of the documents are:

  • Pakistan’s broadband penetration is very low
  • Currently there are around 100K Broadband subscribers which need to be taken to 1.6 million by 2010 (1% of population)
  • This low penetration is earning bad scores for us under the WSIS measuring criteria & there is a strong need to improve the same
  • Three approaches have been suggested for the GoP’s intervention in this ‘dismal’ state of broadband affairs:
    • No intervention – leave it to market; slow broadband growth expected
    • Bundle with Basic Services – only rural areas will benefit; existing broadband provides will loose
    • Tackle issue with a new format – dedicated efforts are expected to yield better results; divided in various phases

The document assumes or maintains that fixed broadband is a dwindling trend and wireless broadband will finally prevail (page 23). While this is true for the last mile domain, the infrastructure is ALWAYS wired (read fiber). The guys at the MoITT need to be pointed to this omission in consideration. Pakistan need to have a good wired infrastructure before we can decide which of the two last miles options (wired or wireless) is good for us.

The study also repeatedly mentions the similarity between low tele-density and low broadband penetration. However, the applications/demand side difference between the two (voice and data) is repeatedly ignored. While it is true that the gap between 2.7% tele-density (from where our telecoms boom started off) and current 50% tele-density was one of the reasons for the boom, it was the application (voice) that was ready to exploit this gap. In the case of broadband, a similar gap exists and this gap is what the study is considering as an opportunity. However, as obvious, the difference between our last success (in cellular voice) and current challenge is that of application – do we have compelling applications that will drive the growth that can ride this gap?

The document also does not considers demand creation at all. While supply end enhancements (by way of USF subsidies towards network deployments etc) are more than welcome, a significant portion of the efforts must go towards demand creation activities. Mandatory use of electronic facilities in the business circles, tax cuts for ISPs interconnecting with each other, financial benefits to private TV channels to host streaming servers inside Pakistan, creation of public/open Internet Exchanges etc are all example of such efforts.

Wateen Competition in Catchup Frenzy

The recent launch of Wateen‘s Wimax in Pakistan has put its wireless competition in a catchup frenzy. Reports coming from a number of vendors indicate extensive, short notice meetings that are taking place between providers and vendors and very mature decisions levels. Vendors, who had been chasing the providers for their Wimax platforms but faced an undecided response for quite some time now, are finding the new found sense-of-urgency pleasantly surprising. For them, Wateen’s advances on the Wimax front that attracted both local and international applause appears to have shook the sleeping providers from their deep slumber and procrastination.

IXP in Pakistan

PTA is soliciting proposals for Consultancy Services on the issue of establishment of local Internet Exchange Points in Pakistan.

The last date of submission of such proposal is around the end of Feb 2008. Let us hope PTA gets good consultants to get them going in the right direction and speed.

In this relation, here is an interesting presentation on IXP by Guarab Raj of SANOG and PCH fame.

PTA gears up for IX and Peering Initiative

It comes as a stress reliever to read that PTA is finally inching towards pushing the local Internet industry towards a saner state where local traffic gets cleared locally without wasting the countries foreign exchange and without costings the end users hundreds of useless milliseconds of RTT delays.

PTA has issued an RFP that seeks consultation services on the topic of local Internet exchanges and peering points. I am not sure what direct role can PTA play in private peering as it is mostly a two-party arrangement for their own respective good with little intervention required by any third party. However, the IX domain will greatly benefit from PTA exerting its role and responsibility in bringing major players on-board.

Also, the move is going to have a direct financial impact on the top-of-the-chain IP bandwidth providers like PTCL and TW who currently do not discriminate between local and transit bandwidth and make money for both types of the bandwidths alike. With IX infrastructures in place, customer IP requirements for local needs will drop down in the short term but, as a rule, IX infrastructure will promote the overall appetite of the industry for more transit bandwidth as a whole.

Let’s hope for the best.

Pakistan’s Persistent ccTLD Pains

The painful topic of .pk ccTLD vis-a-vis Pakistan and its fledging ICT boom has been discussed on this blog in the past. Right now, an active debate is taking place on the same topic at Pakistan ICT Policy Monitor list here (yahoo ID required).

Nvu – Urdu Support

Nvu, the open source WYSIWYG web editor now supports Urdu, thanks to CRULP.

We are pleased to announce the release of the Urdu Nvu Windows Installer developed by the Pakistan Country Component of PAN Localization Project (funded by the IDRC) at the Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing (CRULP), National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences ( NUCES).

Nvu is an open-source, multi-platform, complete web authoring system featuring WYSIWYG editing of pages and integrated file management via FTP, which can be used for easy and quick content development. The current release of the Nvu localization includes the Urdu Nvu installer for Windows, which has it’s GUI in Urdu. Work to be done for future releases includes changing the layout direction of Urdu Nvu to right-to-left.   For download and installation details, please go to Urdu Nvu Windows Installer.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.