Telecom Activity Roundup in AJK & NA

This report from Daily Times provides a good activity roundup relating to new Telecommunication initiatives in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Northern Areas. From the report:

In the wake of October 8 earthquake, the PTA granted temporary permission to mobile phone companies operating in Pakistan for provision of services in quake-hit areas. Later on, they were invited to obtain permanent licenses for AJK and NAs against the ILF of $10 million each.

Subsequently four mobile companies Mobilink, Ufone, Warid and Telenor acquired licenses by paying 50 percent of the license fee ($5 million) each upfront as per the terms of the payment. The $20 million (Rs 1.2 billion) collected by PTA from four operators has been deposited with the AJK Council Secretariat and Chief Secretary, NAs in the ratio of 77:23 based on the population of the two areas. Their share was Rs 927.696 million and Rs 277.104 million respectively. In view of special circumstances, PTA has not deducted any fee from the amount.

The fifth mobile license for AJ&K and NAs has recently been issued to CMPak (Paktel) for which the fees would be deposited under the same arrangements. All five mobile companies will pay remaining 50 percent (i.e. $5 million each) in 10 equal annual installments.

It may be mentioned that, with the introduction of mobile phone services people of these areas are getting enhanced communication facilities. So far, cellular operators in AJK and NAs have provided one million mobile connections. Mobile service is available in the following areas of AJK including Bagh, Bhimber, Bharhing, Kotli, Muzzafferabad, Palandri, Rawalakot, Mirpur, Dhirkot, Ghari Duppatta, Hattian Bala, Dhudyal, Barnala, Kakra, Islam Gargh, Dirkot, Chamankot, Baloch, Sehnsa, KhuiRatta, Hajira, Tarar Khel, Abbas Pur, Jaraee, Rajdhani. Thraowchi, Puna, Sumani, Charoi, Fatepur, Barnala, Paniola, etc. In Northern Areas Gilgit, Hunza, Chilas, Skardu, Shigar, Danyor have been provided mobile services.

Moreover, Special Communication Organisation (SCO) which was the major provider of telecom services in the region till very recent is working on its several developmental activities including Rural Telecom Uplift Project Phase-II for provision of 80,000 telephone lines (along with 266 km Optic Fibre), enhancement of GSM capacity by 65,000 lines, laying of 570 km optic fibre, 26 digital exchanges with VSAT connectivity and laying of outside plant (OSP) in NAs.

SCO is also planning to lay optical fibre cable link for international connectivity between China and Pakistan.

SCO has also taken initiatives to provide Internet services to these areas in the form of Dialup, DSL and CDMA 1X services by entering into O&M agreements with existing providers in Pakistan.


Managed Services

Managed services are thriving well in Pakistan. Ericsson has been reported to be given an extension of three years for the Managed Service that they had been providing to Warid Telecom in Pakistan. Warid’s network is multivendor and the managed service will cover this multivendor environment.

Managed services bode well for the local telecom environment as under these arrangements, a more professional entity takes charge of the engineering (and some times, even some non-engineering) functions of the telecom business house letting the original license holder customer take care on the core business of marketing and managing the local brand.

Generally in such deals, a large number of employees from the parent telecom company also get transfered to the company providing the Managed Services as regular or contract employees. Apart from become part of (normally) bigger and more structured companies, the practice also has the positive effects of enhancing the technical and administrative caliber of the local man power in general.

CMPak – South Goes to Ericsson

Ericsson is announcing that CMPak (formerly Paktel) has awarded its expansion project in the south of Pakistan to the company. Ericsson will provide GSM and microwave transmission network equipment to CMPak for its expansion project that will cover 312 cities of Sindh and Baluchistan that form the southern part of Pakistan.

CMPak has awarded the expansion project of northern wing of its network  to Alcatel-Lucent that we covered here. 

The news bodes well for the industry in terms of more jobs in the sector particularly in the outsourced contract projects segment. The news also mean that increased network capacity will drive down the cost for the consumer due to increased competition and force the cellular operators to focus more on value added services on their network beyond just voice.

Let us hope Mr Leghari can lure in cellular manufacturers to start making terminals in Pakistan so that the import bill for these terminals can be minimized

PTCL Broadband – All Set, Except Bandwidth

PTCL is set to launch its new broadband services off its new OFAN platform starting 23rd June 2007 in Karachi according to a source in the company. However, just like their launch of the service in Islamabad and Rawalpindi a few weeks ago, the Karachi launch is facing a bizarre issue – everything is set except that transit Internet bandwidth is not available for the platform to the needed extent. The same issue, according to the insider, is being faced in Karachi and unless this is fixed by some drastic measures, the Karachi launch will be marred by the same problem.

In other unrelated PTCL news, a new Voluntary Separation Scheme aims at cutting down as many as 12,000 regular employees of PTCL in the first go. The new management at PTCL  plans to drop a total of 38,000 regular employees from the 52,000 populous team of PTCL in the coming days. (Staff working at non-management positions of riders, peons, drivers etc are paid daily and are not part of this count. Most of these belong to sister concerns of PTCL such as Telecom Foundation etc).

Paktel’s Continued Transformation

Cellular News is reporting that Paktel’s stakes were acquired by China Mobile Communication Corporation which is the parent company of China Mobile. China Mobile is a listed company and the move is intended as the investors were cautious on the profitability of the venture in Pakistan due to fierce market competition.

Insiders are reporting that the new company, now renamed as CMPak has started a fresh wave of hiring employees.  The company is also engaged in talks with a long-haul optical network with Malaysian roots to acquire dark fiber pair on long term lease for its nationwide traffic requirement.

PTCL Seeking GMs, Misses Change Artists

PTCL, on 13th May, 2007, has posted around 50 jobs on its website most of which are of higher management level. The company is seeking General Managers for Business Development (Consumer), Sales Planning & Forecasting, Consumer Sales (Zone), Corporate Sales (Zone), Business Development (Corporate), Distribution Sales, Direct Sales, SME’s Sales, Corporate Sales, Commercial Performance Control, Multi Media Management, Loyalty Management, Calling Cards, Fixed Network Services, Wireless Network Services, Market Communication, Skills Development, Country Training, Market Research & Planning.  A large number of Senior Managers and Managers in various disciplines are also being sought for what seems like a fresh start in a competitive market by PTCL.

Apparent from the titles of these post is the fact that PTCL would now be focusing on selling services off the infrastructure it has been laying down in the past two years – Wireless Local Loop, Optical Fiber Access Network / DSL, and Wimax (currently in planning phase). The key challenge that the company now faces is to how to present its customers with solutions that are seamlessly stitched together. For a very long time now, PTCL’s customers are accustomed to weave their own solution from the available connectivity options provided by the company. In fact, a large amount of market business is carried out by third parties that generally perform this job in the fanciful name of ‘system integration’.  With good talent onboard at PTCL, it might become possible for the company to offer integrated solution to its customers by picking up the services available across its portfolio.

While it seem simple to attract good human resource from local and International market by simply bringing the compensation packages at par with the market, most of the incumbents in the developing world forget that before they can attract (and subsequently benefit from) the talent available in the market, they need ‘change artists’. From organizational development to organizational behavior, the challenge for large incumbent organization like PTCL is far from one that is just technical and procedural.

Warid Goes Regional – Promises for Pakistan

Warid started services in Bangladesh yesterday. The network has been bootstrapped with 900 BTS with 200 more to go. The company plans to invest a total of 800m dollars in the populous country of Bangladesh. Warid can now claim to be a regional player. However, I found the mentioning of ‘European standard network quality’ in the statement given to AFP by the the company’s spokesman a bit ‘Telenor inspired’.

So what does this mean for Pakistan? A lot. At least for the optimists out there. Even if the financial nerve center of the company remains stuck in Abu Dhabi, it seems that Pakistan has a chance to become the supply center for technology and management professionals for the region in the cellular sector. And this has happened before as well. The ailing Instaphone saw the best and most experienced of its technology and management staff moving in hoards to Middle East to work at critical positions for alternative operators like du in UAE and Mobily in Saudi Arabai. With one of the best performing cellular market in the region, there is no reason why Pakistan cannot become the number 1 choice when it comes to cellular professionals.