The CTO of Norwegian-backed cellco Telenor Pakistan, Gyorgy Koller has justified the company’s ongoing network overhaul programme, which includes making the system 3G-ready, in an interview with the Express Tribune. Despite witnessing prolonged delays for the issuance of 3G concessions, in March last year the cellco signed a five-year agreement with Chinese equipment supplier ZTE to install 7,000 HSPA-enabled and 2,000 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE)-enabled base stations, as well as replacing the operator’s existing 7,500 GSM towers and expanding its 2G network with 1,400 new base stations. With the 3G licensing process sent back to the drawing board in the closing months of 2012, Telenor has explained its decision to continue the network overhaul. Koller describes two ‘major advantages’ of the network upgrade: ‘The first and the most obvious one is being ready for 3G technology. 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.’ Koller noted that the new infrastructure will reduce energy consumption by 20% and reduce operating costs and, looking ahead, added that the development would prepare for a smooth transition to LTE when required. Telenor is keen to increase data use to drive revenue growth – Koller bemoaned that Pakistan is a ‘low ARPU market with low mobile data consumption’ – in the country and by upgrading the network ahead of 3G licensing, the cellco can reduce the time between the issuance of concessions and marketing the technology.
Koller addressed concerns over disruptions to services during the rollout, acknowledging that customers had experienced low quality services and might continue to do so until the project is complete. However, the CTO stressed that Telenor’s emphasis was on establishing future benefits for customers if they stay with the company.