Regardless of whether the new government opts to auctioning the three-year-old 3G mobile spectrum technology or goes a step further by auctioning 4G spectrum licences, Telenor Pakistan’s network modernisation initiatives will reduce energy costs, facilitate the introduction of 3G services and provide a smooth transition to 4G, a top official of the company says.
“There are two major advantages of this [network upgradation] exercise: the first and the most obvious one is being ready for 3G technology,” Telenor Pakistan’s Chief Technology Officer Gyorgy Koller told “Secondly, there will be an overall benefit from using modern equipment that is energy-efficient and less taxing on the already scarce energy resources of Pakistan,” he said.
With the deployment of a state-of-the-art network infrastructure, reduction in energy consumption will be close to 20%, Koller said. The modern network, according to him, will also allow a smoother transition to 4G/LTE when required, which will obviously be superior in quality due to the use of the latest technology and optimised bandwidth provision.
The Telenor Group, a Norwegian telecom company, has mobile operations in 11 markets around the world, of which Telenor Pakistan is a major equity stake. In total, the Telenor Group has close to 150 million subscribers, out of which 30 million subscribers reside in Pakistan, making it the second largest cellular service provider in terms of consumer base.
Telenor Pakistan’s network modernisation project, according to Koller, is the largest-ever undertaking by the Telenor Group and ZTE – a Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment company, which is also the world’s fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer by volumes.
Telenor Pakistan, according to Koller, contributes to about only 5-6% of the Telenor Group’s combined revenues. Telenor Group reported 26 billion Norwegian kroner, or $4.4 billion, in revenues for 2012. “We [Pakistan] are a low ARPU market with low mobile data consumption,” he said.
While expecting to complete the network upgrade by the end of 2013, the company is hoping to benefit from high speed mobile internet by improving its average revenue per user.
“Our experiences with high speed mobile internet across various markets around the globe have shown that there is a lot of potential to serve our consumers and enrich the lives of people,” Koller said. “It will allow us to open new horizons in communication, especially in areas such as e-learning and mobile health,” he said.
It may be added here that frequent suspension of mobile phone services in Pakistan also dampens the industry’s revenues. “The industry loses around Rs1 billion for every day the network is suspended countrywide, with the government itself losing 33% in taxes due to these suspensions,” Koller said.
While the company upgrades its network, its customers have at times experienced low quality services. The company acknowledges the fact, and says they may continue till the project is complete.
While responding to a question about the compromised service quality, Koller said their emphasis remains on establishing the future benefits that customers will receive if they stay with Telenor during this challenging period.
Explaining the difficulty of the task, he said: “We call the project ‘highly complex’ because live network equipment modernisation with 30 million active subscribers is not an easy task, and it requires extremely efficient processes and very competent teams.”
The scale of this network modernisation activity, Koller said, envelopes almost all components of the Telenor network: ie, core, radio and transmission. “A network upgrade of this nature involves meticulous planning to avoid any potential degraded user experience,” he said, adding: “Keeping in view the complexities involved in such major network upgrades, the standard timeline is around 1.5-2 years.” Telenor Pakistan has been consistently working to make sure that customers are aware of network modernisation activities, he said.