Pak Affairs Research & Development

Pakistan has highest number of multiple-SIM users in South Asia

KARACHI: Cellular phone subscribers having more than one connection of different telecom operators are estimated to mark 23 per cent share of the overall reported base of Pakistan – the highest trend in terms of percentage among the South Asian countries, a new research report reveals.

LIRNEasia, a research centre of IT and Telecom, in its latest report 2009-10 said the multiple SIM (Subscribers Identity Module) cards ownership has been witnessed a significant trend among Pakistani customers categorized under low income group or Bottom of Pyramid (BOP) as far as utilisation of telephony services is concerned.The finding reflected the number of mobile phone users carrying multiple SIMs cards have been estimated to increase more than 22.8 million in the overall base of 99.18 million by June 2010.

Pakistan is followed by Philippine and Sir Lanka with 19 and 16 per cent of the cellular phone users having more than one SIM, Lirneasia report said. Thailand, Bangladesh and India have stood at 13 per cent, 10 per cent and 9 per cent respectively in the trend at BOP level.

Pakistan has the highest mobile penetration in region with 64.2 per cent following India and Sir Lanka with 59.6 per cent and 35 per cent by October 2010. As per latest statistics available, the number of subscribers carrying multiple SIMs in
their use in Pakistan has increased to 23 million in the base of 100.7 million by October 2010. Hence, the actual number of subscribers is less than 77 million according to the results of think tank survey report.

Telecom analysts said the numbers of subscribers with dual or multiple SIMs could be exceeded from the estimated figures if users with middle income group are included in the survey. Therefore, the number of overall individuals with SIM cards is much lower with number of total connections reported by operators.

They said the subscribers’ ownership of multiple SIMs is based on services tariff, network quality and package offers by different operators.

“I use two SIMs of different operators because I receive better quality of service of operators separately at home and office,” a customer said “I communicate frequently with my clients on phone so there is no alternative for me except to use service of two operators.” Another customer said, “he posses three SIMs of different operators as one is good for SMS, one for calls and one for internet.”

The trend of using multiple connections has also divided the overall revenue growth and Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) of cellular operators as well, analysts added.

The cellular operators’ offers to retain their in-active users with free minutes offer on reactivation. Most of the customers get prize or bonus airtime and SMS to get their SIMs active several times on the announcement of respective operators. The cellular operators are reluctant to lose their inactive subscribers’ base in addition to disclose their actual base to the Pakistan Telecom Authority.
Input from Agencies

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Haroon Akram Gill

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