PTA Meets on PKNIC Issue

PTA has conducted a meeting of various stakeholders and industry representatives on the issue of PKNIC today in Islamabad. There have been a series of interesting posts on TGP on this topic since this morning and we expect a detailed unofficial minutes of meeting by one caring participant of this meeting soon.

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DST in an Internet Age

Last night, Pakistani clocks have been moved forward by an hour to implement the Daylight Saving Time which is aiming at reducing some of our energy costs. DST is debatable, to say the least. Look up for the topic and you will see how many arguments exists in its favor and against.

That we have an evil energy crisis at hand (which is bent upon slowing us down even when we have just started to move forward as a nation) is a fact. And fighting a crisis of 21st century with a 100 year old trick might not be the coolest thing to do.

With teledensity in Pakistan being touted as the highest in the region and Internet finding a mainstay in our dailylives, we need to look at innovations that can conserve energy for the nation. The regular options that come to mind such as telecommuting, mobile transactions and remote control of energy spending gadgets might validly be a pass-time for the advanced world. However, I believe that the power of having almost half of the nation talking to each other via cell phones should be harnessed via a social campaign to reduce our power consumption.

Why can’t we have a ring tone campaign similar to ‘go musharraf go’ such as ‘bijli bachao doostoon’ (friends, lets save electricity) and social SMS campaigns saying ‘turn one power consuming item now’? Why can’t the chain-letter-loving nation send energy conservation messages to each other to raise the awareness on this critical issue. The connected Pakistan is a large, influential audience which, if it acts in harmony, can make big changes happen.

PKNIC Outage

PKNIC, the entity responsible for the global top level domain of Pakistan (.pk), is reportedly down for the past 8 hours. This is the latest in the series of now very ‘old pains’ that have now become synonymous with the domain controlling body.

While this do not have any immediate affect on the globally operating domains under the .pk ccTLD for now (due to the way the DNS system works), users trying to reach the site for updating their domain records or paying for their domains will be facing problems.

It is most likely that the problems would be resolved and we will see the site back soon.

However, once again, this incident points towards the weakness of PKNIC as a user-focused entity. Despite being run as a commercial operation, PKNIC has not been able to fulfill the basic need of communicating with their paying users such as providing them with a representative office or officer one can reach, a helpline one can dial, a blog that keeps its users informed about the latest with the entity and so on.

This lack of communication has been shedding a very bad light to its name. Unless PKNIC addresses the basic need of communicating with its paying users in ways that are a norm of today, it would only be normal and logical for the general public to view every move of PKNIC with doubts.

In an age where dozens, if not hundreds, of offshore companies having their ‘touchable’ operations going on in Pakistan, there is no reason why PKNIC which holds the linchpin of the Pakistani cyberspace can’t have a reachable and touchable representation in Pakistan.

I sincerely believe that this will help PKNIC and its users.

Prepaid Voucher Alert

An acquaintance of mine who runs a shop in a busy, middle-class business district and sells a host of telecommunication services (PCO, pre-paid cards for cellular, WLL and Internet services) told me how he was robbed of a few thousand rupees recently by someone who bought a good number of Rs 300 prepaid cellular service vouchers from him only to return the same within 30 minutes for some compelling reason.

This friend of mine trusted the guy and gave him the money back. Later in the day, when some other customers bought those cards, it was revealed that the cards were already consumed up and my friend ended up loosing his hard earned money.

Apparently this means that some sort of reading means have been discovered by the ever creative community of ours (of course the creativity seems to work in the negative direction) which can read the codes of concealed voucher codes. It seems intelligent now either not to purchase any high value pre-paid cards or limit the purchases from a place where you have some affinity.

An obvious second choice now seems to be the balance transfer facility (affectionately called ‘easyload’) from the cell phone shops mushroomed in every corner of the city. However, as reported earlier, there are problems with these easyload shopping that includes profiles of women who come for getting the balance loaded in their cell phones being ‘sold’ to the degenerated, mastee-obsessed ‘youth’ by these easyload shop keepers. Talk about ‘value added services’.

Food is the new Oil

In a world where oil is the new gold and food is the new oil, Shaikh Nahyan of Abu Dhabi group who has recently received the ‘Largest foreign investor of Pakistan’ award from the privatization ministry of Pakistan is now eying the agriculture sector of Pakistan. Here is what he had to say about opportunity in the agriculture sector in Pakistan.

Addressing the forum, Shaikh Nahyan said agriculture is crucial to Pakistan’s economic prosperity. “Investment opportunities in agriculture sector are attractive. I encourage all potential investors to take a long-term view of Pakistan’s economy as one of the emerging markets of the world — a market where astute investors should want to establish and sustain a long-term presence.”

p.s: My grocery store bill just nodded in agreement with the Shaikh when the price of a 5 kg rice bag took a straight jump of Rs 100 from Rs 375 to Rs 475.

TeleCON 2008

Global TeleCON 2008 was held in Karachi on 29th and 30th April 2008 at Sheraton Hotel, Karachi. The conference was organized by Shamrock Conferences and was sponsored by the cellular and other telecommunication companies. It was a two days event with a dinner and cultural evening at the end of Day 1. Here are my personal observations of the event and round up of the presentations and talks I attended.

Disclaimer: My employer was the one of the main sponsors of the event. I was able to attend Day 1 of the event only and missed the Day 2. Views expressed here are my own and not of my employer.

My experience for Day 1 was mixed. Some presentations were really good and thought provoking like the one given by Dr Amir Mateen of Cisco Systems Pakistan where he talked about how great the broadband vacuum is in Pakistan and how unprepared the local contents are and that in the absence of structured local contents, people will make up their own contents (read social networks) and in doing so, there is a real danger of a whole new generation getting carried away in the roman Urdu flood and how this threatens the Urdu script and the associated heritage.

Sajjad Haider, Director Networks, Ericsson’s presentation later in the day was also great where he detailed case studies in which operators’ business cases that were negative turned positive due to better power management in terms of turning off RF carriers during low-traffic hours, turning to solar energy etc. In the backdrop of the current energy crisis, it made an absolutely interesting listening.

Mr. Mudassir Hussain, Director Telecommunication Wireless, MoITT’s presentation was a demonstration of HATR – Human Assisted Text Readout technology. 🙂

Presentations by both Mr. Zouhair A. Khaliq, President & CEO, Mobilink and Mr. Hasnat Masood, Director Corp. Communications, Telenor were disappointing. At least from Zouhair sb, I was expecting a ‘talk’ instead of a corporate brochure readout. Babar has hit the bull’s eye when he wondered if these were self-promotion activities. When an event is named as ‘Congress’, it makes all sense to put aside the bragging and talk about technology, trends and issues. You get your subtle publicity for your company anyway but why poison your neutral views with the unnecessary logo banging? Telenor presentation was done on a black background with dark blue colored fonts which were unreadable to the audience and required the presenter to read it out for them.

Presentation by Mr Adnan Asdar of Multinet was probably not very well delivered due to it getting fast-forwarded / short time but it talked about the whole telecoms infrastructure industry of Pakistan and it openly showed achievements and landmarks of all of its competitors. It was nice to see images of competitors landmarks, maps with due credits provided appear on the screen.

My favorite presentation of the day was by Mr. Furqan Qureshi, General Manager, Wateen Telecom . Though it was not immune from the ‘self promotion’ virus that was making rounds that day in the ‘congress’, he was probably the best presenter in terms of delivering the contents to the audience and knowing what was going on his slides when. He talked about how Wateen is going to Mars to reach their customers and how ‘every morning the CEO and nine of his close associates go thru the emails and telephone calls’ to fix customer issues. He also announced that Wateen has ‘stopped charging’ for the full year in advance for its wireless broadband services which are now available on a discounted rate.

The young Mr. Syed Abid Ali, Consultant PTA, Six Sigma gave an intro (with the mandatory Motorolla details!) about the 6 sigma hoopla and its application (and interestingly where not to apply it). He was neutral and that was pretty relieving. During the question break, it was fun to see someone mischievously ask Abid about why Moto is failing these days if it was so good with the six sigma? 🙂

Mr. Noel Kirkaldy, Reg. Director, Wireless Broadband (ME&A) had an eye-candy presentation and the usual well-delivered presentation (what else do you expect from someone like him). He was smart when he repeatedly played on the theme of Pakistan being the first in the entire world to take up a country-wide Wimax roll-out. He declared LTE as an evolution and Wimax as a revolution much to the subtle nay head moving of Sajjad Haider of Ericsson whose presentation was about how LTE is more likely to fix the economics of future networks.

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.