Part 1 of  as series of articles discussing telecom choices in Pakistan 

Say you are moving back to Pakistan from abroad after some years .. you are glad to know that you have choices for your regular phone service, mobile phone and Internet service.

Now that deregulation of Pakistani telecom sector has started there is a lot of action – some would say too much action. With new telecom companies entering the market and making aggressive offerings of products and services to attract customers, it has become hard to make an educated decision about communication choices.

The phone services especially mobile services are in great demand and the competition among service providers is stiff.  PTA is supposed to play the role of advisor and protect the consumers. Go to the PTA website  and browse the section for Consumer Guides. For starters it needs to keep its website up-to-date as some of the information there is from as far back as 2004. But more importantly the guides should be user-friendly. Telecom is a complex industry with lots of hard-to-understand acronyms and jargon. How do you expect a layperson to interpret all this without enough help and support?

Lets go over the Internet which is probably of greater interest but more of a maze than phone services. First lower your expectations about broadband availability and rates. Even if you are lucky and you live in one of the cities which have the so-called broadband available you may still get a sticker shock. Consider this: Nayatel offers fiber optic based Internet service in Islamabad .. the cost of initial installation is around Rs. 25000 and there are upper limits on what your data usage. Compare that to the US where companies like Verizon offer similar service for free installation and with unlimited usage. PTCL holds virtual monopoly over ther rates and even though PTA reduced rates recently Internet at reasonable speed is still far too expensive for the common person. More on the Internet availabilty and rates in a separate post soon.

Secondly, the quality of Internet service varies a great deal even within the same provider.. and there’s often no easy way to get your issues resolved. If you get stuck with limited choice (e.g. only PTCL offers DSL in your area) it could be even worse. This is another area where PTA needs to ramp up its support for the citizens.

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