ISLAMABAD -Pakistan is planning to launch 5G technology in three big cities of the country in 2023.

According to an official document of the Ministry of Information and Telecommunication (MOITT), a copy of which is available with WealthPK, the government has projected that by 2025, 4% of Pakistan’s internet users can use 5G technology, while 65% of the connections will be enabled on 4G technology.

Documents show that the Global System of Mobile Communications (GSMA) had projected that more than 50% of users will have a 4G connection in Pakistan by end of 2022. These projections are accurate, but remain three years behind the trajectory of the global average. Compared to the world average, the percentage of 4G connection in Pakistan is significantly smaller than the rest of the region, but is expected to grow at a faster pace. 5G is projected to pick up from 2023, but continue to account for a very small proportion of connections in the following years.

Mobile broadband in Pakistan keeps growing, but still it has plenty of room for growth. Mobile subscription and penetration are increasing at a steady pace. As of August 2022, total mobile and mobile broadband (MBB) users reached 195 million and 123 million, respectively. Mobile and MBB penetration have reached 84% and 51%, respectively. The proportion of MBB subscribers in the total mobile subscribers is increasing over the past years.

The GSMA has projected that 21% of the global population can be connected to 5G technology, while 57% population can avail of 4G technology. According to the latest research of GSMA, in 2019, 4G for the first time accounted for more than 50% of mobile connections globally. 82% of the population in low-middle income countries (LMICs) were covered by 4G, compared to 90% for 3G. It has taken the LMICs around seven years to reach more than 80% coverage for 4G, compared to 10 years for 3G.

According to the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), as of 2020, 92 countries/regions released 5G development strategy/plan, conducted 5G spectrum auction, or decided 5G spectrum auction/allocation timetable. As many as 135 operators in 52 countries/regions have launched commercial 5G services. In the coming years, there will be more widespread deployment and adoption of the technology around the world, including in LMICs. The documents show that Pakistan has a total MBB penetration (population using internet) of above 46% (including 3G penetration of 10% and 4G penetration of 36%), while the number for other benchmark countries (excluding the Philippines) is above 74%. The sharp contrast shows a usage gap, i.e., although a large proportion of the population is covered by MBB in Pakistan, less than half of them use these services. Access to connectivity, affordable devices, and content barriers are among the factors behind this usage gap.