Telenor Pakistan is following Mobilink to hit the PCO segment. Cellular News (and others) are reporting that the service, branded as ApnaPCO, is starting off with services in the impoverished southern part of the Punjab. Telenor is said to have entered into an alliance with the National Rural Support Program (NRSP)
Wireless local loop operators in Pakistan are rightly considered smaller boys as compared to the GSM group, the bigger boys of telecoms. When the market was really picking up subscribers in the past 18 months, the GSM group was complaining that the WLL entities are entering into their domain – mobility beyond one base station – and hence causing great losses to their business which has a very high license and operational cost. While PTA determined in favor of the GSM crowd, this never got implemented as smaller WLL operators cited VPTCL of doing the same and hence asking for an compliance from PTCL’s WLL wing before they do the same. (The limited mobility requirements as put up by PTA were debated as being impractical given the technology’s inherent mobile roots and the way the frequency has been auctioned in Pakistan for WLL services).
Still today, Diallog (Islamabad), Telecard’s GoCDMA and PTCL’s VPTCL are virtually mobile in cities where they are operational. On-net free calling combined with city-wide mobility plays well for the WLL operators who were winning certain market share from the GSM Operators.
ARPUs in the PCO sector (which, until now, used to be a WLL speciality) are very high as compared to the ARPUs of GSM market (of course, the sheer size of the two segments off-sets the effect in the favor of GSM). So the GSM guys stopped complaining and started working. First, it was Mobilink to start their PCO service and now Telenor is taking the same route.
As the boundaries between fixed phones, cell phones and PCOs blurs due to general rate reduction, the oxygen supply for wireless local loop players relying heavily on PCO business, will be on the drop in the coming days. It seems probable that it would now be the WLL people crying foul on the GSM crowd on their getting into their business.