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<nettime> Pakistan: An Independence Day Saga - GSM Rulez!
Patrice Riemens on Wed, 18 Aug 2004 21:36:16 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Pakistan: An Independence Day Saga - GSM Rulez!

>From the BytesForAll list, with apologies for P & XP!

----- Forwarded message from Shahzad Ahmad <shahzad {AT} isb.sdnpk.org> -----

To: <bytesforall_readers {AT} yahoogroups.com>,
   <communityinformatics {AT} vancouvercommunity.net>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 13:12:58 +0500
Subject: [bytesforall_readers] An Independence Day Saga

In Pakistan, Independence Day brought a different kind of hustle bustle
this year. Ufone, country's state owned cellular phone company announced
on 14th August, 2004 via national TV circuit that to celebrate
Independence Day, it will offer pre-paid mobile phone connections "free of
cost" - even without regular government taxes.

This announcement attracted thousands of people to Ufone's outlets in 9
major cities of the country where this offer was valid.  Only on the first
day of offer, 25,000 people visited Ufone's Head Office situated in one of
the capital's posh areas.  Weathering long queues and the unbearable heat
were people from all walks of life, determined to get free connections.
Hadn't I seen myself I won't have believed the great number of females I
saw in the queue at Ufone Head Office, so early on 16th August.

Regular cost of the connection nowadays is around 1000/- rupees.  This
Ufone connection was not all free as with every new connection, purchasing
of one pre-paid scratch card amounting to Rs. 500/- was mandatory (to be
loaded before 24th August, 2004). As per Mr. Shahzada Alam who heads the
PTCL, around 400,000 connections were distributed on 14th and 15th August
alone (reported in press), (though my independent sources tells the total
number to be 315,000 for the entire period 14-17 August).

It also boosted other kinds of business activities with chai walas,
burgers walas and juice walas etc. selling these eatables on high prices
to those standing in queues for long hours.  On 16th August, when offices
opened after the weekend, the charged atmosphere likened to the euphoria
after every Pakistan-India Cricket match with everybody talking about it.
In this case, everybody talked about Ufone free connections, and the
quantity they could get.  Peons and Office Attendants were not present in
offices, as most of them were sent by their officers to Ufone's outlets to
get the connections.

One of my friends who works at the Ufone, Head Office described how it
took her a solid 30 minute struggle to cross the crowd, gathered in front
of the main gate to enter the office in the morning of 16th August.  
Police had to baton charge several times to control the crowd.  The forms
to be filled for connections were though free, later sold for Rs.200/-.  
Few opportunists charged for their services to fill up the forms for those
who may be illiterate.

In different kind of business boom for other opportunists, prices for
mobile sets suddenly shot up.  For instance Nokia 2300 available two weeks
ago at Rs.5600/- is now being sold for Rs. 6600/-.  Slightly used second
hand sets used to be available at good prices but now have totally
disappeared from the market. Interestingly, even my van driver carried a
mobile phone this morning. Showing off, he helpfully suggested that now I
can reach him whenever I want.

Whosoever, marketing guru was behind this campaign has unquestionably won
ways for Ufone to attract so many thousand people into their network.
Telecom business already thriving in the country, and particularly with
the entrance of new companies, it is hoped that remote areas will now also
be connected with this technology.  Although, teledensity remains low in
Pakistan (although better than many south Asian countries) is mainly
saturated in urban areas.  Rural areas are usually neglected but with a
lot more business competition to find new markets, these companies will
have to expand their services to remote areas and lower tariffs.

This was just to share an interesting Independence Day with you all. But I
think someone should conduct a systematic and analytical research study on
the benefits or disadvantages this new kind of technology boom may bring.

Best wishes and regards.

Shahzad Ahmad
Islamabad, Pakistan
Cell. ++ 92 333 5236060

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