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Mobile Internet Trends in Pakistan

Recently released stats from PTA confirm that the mobile market in Pakistan has reached 13 million customers since the November of last year. Consequently, Pakistan now ranks as the fifth largest mobile phone market in Asia. Warid telecom has led the ranks in 4G users with a total of 79,213 4G LTE users. Mobilink still remains the market leader but Zong is catching up fast with over 0.7 million subscribers added in the last two months. The 3G/4G network development in Pakistan has been a major contributor to this growth factor.

Another and probably less known fact is that a very small percentage of people in Pakistan have access to landlines. The time and cost of getting a landline is far greater than buying a SIM card. Although the recent changes by PTA have posed some restrictions on the number of cards that can be issued to a person, the option of acquiring a mobile connection is still more convenient as compared to a land line.

When it comes to smartphones, Android ranks topmost among the highest desirable mobile Operating Systems in the country. According to Grappetite, a mobile app development firm in Pakistan, 68% of the smartphone users in Pakistan are on Android. Considering brand popularity, Samsung ranks first, iPhone ranks second and QMobile ranks third. It is astounding to see that QMobile has been picking up 21% of the market share in the local mobile industry.

However, mobile internet usage is still very uncommon in Pakistan. Surprisingly, 80% of the users in the country spend less than $100 on a mobile phone, and even fewer access the internet on the go. Ansr.io, a mobile survey company, estimates that the smartphone penetration in the market has only been 10% since 2013. This is a fairly small figure compared to the 45% users in Lebanon who have now switched to smartphones. One of the reasons, according to Grappetite is that 35% of the mobile users in Pakistan carry a low cost smartphone due to safety problems.

Safety is not the only concern. The heavy taxation imposed by telecommunication authorities is also limiting the growth in this sector. Grappetite estimates that the average user spends no more than Rs. 150 per month on mobile usage. The Pew Research Center also suggests that internet usage is strongly correlated with a country’s GDP per capita. Ironically, the popular social media website ‘Facebook’ is visited by two thirds of the country’s youth, and more than half of them come from the Pakistan’s top 10% affluent families.

With 70% of the population under the age of 30, there is no question to the inevitable rise of the Mobile industry in Pakistan. However, the industry will continue to face challenges posed by the regulating authorities in tapping this niche market. The penetration of smartphone devices and the increase in the number of internet users is only possible by minimizing taxes, and making this technology affordable for the masses. Some of the sectors that the market analysts should continue to explore are E-commerce and mobile banking which can open up more opportunities for the mobile industry.

life @ ibex.

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