For a country that boasts such a high percentage of mobile phone penetration, Internet usage in Pakistan is surprisingly low. According to World Wide Worx’s Digital Readiness Index for Asia Pacific and the UN’s e-Business Readiness Index for Emerging Markets, the digital landscape in Pakistan remains substandard when compared to other countries with similar levels of economic development, using of Facebook, GB WhatsApp app, Instagram, Youtube is little costly in pakistan compare to other countries . The statistics are bleak: according to a survey by Google and Ipsos in 2018, only 16% of Pakistanis use internet on their mobile phones and only 11% use it at home; less than half of all adults have access to the Internet from home or their smartphone; and just 19% of adults are “digital citizens” with access to online services such as social media sites, shopping websites and video streaming services. Additionally, while almost every Pakistani adult owns a cell phone (98%), ownership of mobile data subscriptions is far lower: 50%. The cost of data plans is also exceptionally high given the low penetration rates. For example, Vodafone’s 1GB plan costs 969 PKR per month making it one of the most expensive data plans in the world. This article delves deeper into why Internet access in Pakistan is so costly and what we can do about it.
Internet Bandwidth is Expensive in Pakistan
According to the latest research by Euromonitor, the average monthly price of one gigabyte of data in Pakistan is 747 PKR (16.7 US cents per megabyte). This figure is lower than most emerging markets but higher than some other South Asian countries. For example, the average monthly price of one gigabyte of data in India is $0.75 USD, making it the least expensive country surveyed. The price of Internet bandwidth in Pakistan is largely due to the poor state of the national telecommunications network. The government’s plans to expand the national telecommunications network will improve access to broadband internet and reduce the cost of data service. However, the pace of expansion will largely be dictated by the availability of resources, and the timelines for completion remain uncertain. During the recent floods in Sindh, over 1.4 million people were left without access to the Internet. The extent of the damage to the national network remains unclear but it is likely to be extensive.
Internet Infrastructure is Aging and Deteriorating
The state of Pakistan’s national telecommunications network has deteriorated rapidly over the past decade. The most recent survey of the state of the national infrastructure by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority revealed that 77% of Pakistan’s telephone exchange infrastructure is over 20 years old, and 44% of the exchanges are over 30 years old. Moreover, only 23% of the national network is above standard, while 31% is “substandard” and 38% is considered “deteriorating.” The condition of the national network is critical given Pakistan’s rapidly growing Internet demand. Increased demand for mobile data has been one of the most significant factors driving this deterioration. The rapidly growing demand for mobile data has been one of the most significant factors driving this deterioration. This demand is partially driven by the low cost of mobile data compared to fixed broadband Internet.
Internet Data Usage is Still Extremely Low
One of the most surprising data findings from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority survey is the extremely low rate of Internet data consumption in Pakistan: less than 10GB per month. The average monthly Internet data consumption in Pakistan is only 2.25GB, making it one of the lowest levels in the world. Only South Asian countries are likely to see lower levels of monthly data consumption. For example, the average monthly data consumption in Sri Lanka is only 2GB. The low rates of data consumption in Pakistan are largely due to the low level of smartphone penetration. Active mobile Internet users in Pakistan are only 24% of all Internet users. The low Internet data rate could also be partly attributed to a high rate of Internet video consumption in Pakistan. For example, a 2018 survey found that 75% of Internet users in Pakistan used video on a monthly basis. This would imply that most of the low data consumption is due to non-video Internet use.
High Cellular Data Plan Costs are Another Reason Why Internet is so Costly in Pakistan
It is no surprise that the high price of data plans is largely to blame for the high cost of Internet access in Pakistan. Data plans in Pakistan are among the most expensive in the world. For example, the cost of a 1GB data plan in Pakistan is on average 2,349 PKR per month. This makes it one of the most expensive data plans in the world. The high price of data plans is largely due to the high cost of building and maintaining the national telecommunications network. The cost of constructing and upgrading the national telecommunications network is rising due to a number of factors including the need to comply with strict standards of electrification, the rise in demand for mobile data and the need to provide reliable broadband access in rural areas.
Telcos Have No Incentive to Provide Cheaper Data Plans
Data plans in Pakistan have become significantly more expensive over the past few years as telco revenues have grown significantly. The recent adoption of a new regulatory framework for the telecom sector by the government will have a limited impact on data plan prices as telecom operators will continue to earn significant profits from voice and broadband services under the new framework. As a result, telco prices will continue to be driven by factors such as the cost of network maintenance, the need to comply with strict standards of electrification, and the need to provide reliable broadband access in rural areas. The rise in data plan prices has been partly driven by the low cost of building and upgrading the national telecommunications network. Given that the government has committed significant resources to expanding the national telecommunications network, data plan prices are unlikely to decrease significantly in the near future, so using apps like Youtube, WhatsApp aero, Facebook would not be even an issue, when you can afford them.
The digital landscape in Pakistan remains substandard when compared to other countries with similar levels of economic development. This is largely due to the extremely high cost of Internet data and the low Internet data rate in the country. Moreover, the poor state of the national telecommunications network is largely to blame for the substandard state of the digital landscape. The condition of the network is critical given the rapidly growing Internet demand. The low rate of Internet data consumption and the extremely low rate of mobile Internet penetration are also factors that need to be addressed in order to improve the digital landscape in Pakistan.