Recently the telecom sector in Pakistan has attracted a lot of attention from international investors – and for the right reasons: it is one of the fastest growing sector with a huge potential market. Looking at the billboards and media advertisements of mobile phones in Pakistan it is hard to believe that until a few years ago there was no one else but PTCL monopoly. The government is determined to make use of this opportunity to attract foreign investment. For example The International Herald Tribune recently reported:

Overseas investment in Pakistan’s telecommunications industry is expected to hold at $1 billion a year until at least 2009, said Shahzada Alam Malik, head of market regulator Pakistan Telecommunications Authority. As many as 50 percent of Pakistan’s 160 million people are expected to use telephones by that time, up from 23 percent in March this year and 4.3 percent in 2003, he said.

Telenor and Warid Telecom have since secured 20 percent of Pakistan’s cellular market, cutting the share of market leader Pakistan Mobile, or Mobilink, as the unit of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Holding SAE is known, to 51 percent from 64 percent in 2004.

Pakistan, South Asia’s fastest growing telecommunications market, added as many as 2.6 million cellular users in April, according to a report by the regulator released that month. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz wants to widen the nation’s communications network to help the $118 billion economy grow 7 percent in the year starting next month.

The increasing competition should theoretically be good for the Pakistani consumers as well, but only if the regulatory framework does what it is supposed to do. There remains some concern from the consumers about service and rates. The question is: Is Pakistan Telecommunication Authority doing a good job of looking out for the consumers in Pakistan?

This post also appeared in Adil Najam’s blog: All Things Pakistan on July 7, 2006.