Let innovation show the way


He began by pointing out the great need for an International Clearing House (ICH) to handle Long Distance International (LDI) operators in Pakistan and determine calling rates as well as viable policies. It was also noted that international calling rates have reduced and reached down to three cent per minute, which is disastrous for LDI operators. On May 6, 2004, Redtone Telecommunications Pakistan Private Limited was incorporated in Pakistan.
RTPL was incorporated for the purpose of providing long distance international telecommunication service between points within Pakistan and points that are located outside of Pakistan. He asserted that rates should be measured through an ICH and policies must be formulated in this regard, adding that if international calling rates are raised by just one percent; the government will have $100 million revenue a year as there are on average 60 million inbound minutes recorded in Pakistan each month. An ICH would also prove to be useful for generating more revenue for the government because the LDI business has the capacity to handle more than one billion minutes, he said.
RedTone telecommunication launched the first ever Pakistani Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) under the name of Kite Mobile in UK this April and we are getting good response because even in the testing phase we have more than 500 subscribers, while our target is to attract the Pakistani community and South Asians at large living in UK, he informed. It is worth noting that there are many specialised MVNOs in UK, in essence, they are ethnic mobile companies geared to target diverse ethnic groups in the country. Desi Mobi targets South Asians living in the UK, Vizz Mobile, another MVNO that plans to address the needs for the Sri Lankan community in the UK, Lebara targets migrant workers with prepaid SIM cards and highlights its international direct dialing feature (unlike in case of international calling cards) and multilingual online support and customer service.
It also operates MVNO operations in Australia and Western European countries and targets immigrant populations of these countries settled in the UK. Another service, Lyca Mobile, has an MVNO deal with O2 and offers low call rates to the South Asian Diaspora. Kite Mobile Communications is powered by H3G, and it offers pay as you go and monthly plans in the UK, he said. It was also noted that RedTone has an edge over Indian MVNOs working in UK because it has its own switches in New York and this is the secret to its competitive edge. Similarly, a distribution agreement with PinPoint, the famous distributor company of U, also supports us the effort to fully tap the market potential of UK.
Speaking about broadband projects, he said that under the agreement with Quantum Global Communications (QGC) of US, Yahsat of UAE has launched a satellite on April 23, to offer satellite broadband services in Pakistan for the very first time. The brand name of the satellite-based broadband is YahClick, and this would work in two scenarios that include urban and rural targets, while the charges of Customer Premises (CP) would be around $700 and the customer has to pay around $40 on monthly basis for the service, he added.
He said this offer is meant for unlimited access with 2mbps package, and CP includes a 30cm antenna that costs around $350 and if duties are relaxed by the government the CP costs would be reduced further. He informed that generally satellite solutions cost $2,000, but that his organisation is offering a viable package for satellite based network which is an ideal product for the Pakistani market as it will provide broadband services in areas where telecommunication infrastructure is largely nonexistent.
For example, Vset facility (i-Direct satellite-based IP communications technology) is another option in this capacity but it is considered too expensive for most Pakistani users as it cost roughly $2,000, and another option named Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) is also very costly for Pakistan, he added. Ursani said that the country’s broadband market is not more than two million people in a population of 180 million people, while the broadband density is also very low against the teledensity of 65 percent, so satellite based broadband which is beyond geographical limitations will help grow country’s broadband sphere. But the price war in this sphere is damaging for ISPs and there survival is becoming very difficult, he said.
However, the government’s support is therefore necessary and a mediatory body should be formed in this regard, while PTA could also conduct deregulation to help Pakistan introduce strong MVNOs in the country, he said. He also underscored that we should not increase outbound calls as they are quite expensive while Pakistan has LDI business in inbound traffic worth $3-4 million. Speaking on the issues telecommunication industry faces in the country, he said like all other industries it confronts significant infrastructure issues and this is directly related to the quality of service.
While deployment is relatively easy but maintaining quality is more difficult. He also expressed disappointment that Pakistan does not possess stable service in this sector and that the regulator should investigate network deployment to guarantee smooth operations. Additionally, there are simply not enough consumer protection agencies in the country. He claimed that millions of dollars are being spent on advertisement by these companies but who lack a stable operational platform.
To a query, he responded that Vodafone is not going to enter the Pakistani market even as an MVNO as it is a major Mobile Network Operator (MNO) and pointed out that while investors are willing to go to Cambodia, Pakistan poses significant security concerns in the eyes of MNCs. He also went on to say that grey traffic is no longer in vogue due to lower international calling rates while the PTA is professionally responding to incidence of the practice.