Telecos Tax needs to be rationalised’ Asher Yaqub


After a long wait, Pakistan has finally entered the world of 3G and 4G. Asher Yaqub Khan, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at Ufone sat down with The Newpaper to discuss Ufone’s future strategy after successfully acquiring 3G licences and the telecom sector’s outlook. The News reported on Tuesday.

Q. Will a large section of the country’s customer base (approximately 132 million people) be able to afford the rates of 3G service?
A. At Ufone, customers are the top priority and we will ensure that the transition will be as smooth as possible to provide the best packages in terms of quality, simplicity as well as price. Even if you look at our company’s history, we have been known to provide world class service at affordable rates and this will be the case with 3G too. Our customers are always the focus of all our initiatives and to provide them affordable services is and will always remain our primary objective.


Q. What happens to tariffs going forward? Do we see price hikes across the band or the model will continue to be price centric?
A. We will keep the tariffs as simple and customer friendly as possible. At Ufone, as we have always stressed, it is always about the customer. We do not believe in exploiting our customers. The approach will remain the same in future as well and we will continue delivering affordable services to our customer base, which will bring great returns to us as well.

Q. Can you explain the tariff model and how it will change?
A. The pricing structure for voice will remain the same as before. However, the tariff for new 3G data related services will be shared with our customers very soon.

Q. What are the challenges that are expected to create impediments in the planned deployment of 3G networks and its related innovative services to the cellular phone sector?
A. One major hold up is that the technology is only supported on handsets that are 3G compatible. Only users who have a 3G handset will be able to experience the technology.

Q. Is customer awareness about 3G another issue?
A. We are working on building awareness for the technology. Setting up the technology is one thing but making customers aware about it and then selling it is another. I am confident we will sail through the process of promoting this technology.

Q. What are your demands when it comes to government facilitation?
A. Government-related tax needs to be rationalised. The tax burden of telecoms in Pakistan is among the highest in the world and affects efforts by the telcom sector to increase the country’s tele-density. If we understand and acknowledge the sea change that access to telecoms can bring in our economy, I am sure we will appreciate the need for reduction of taxes here.

Q. What are main challenges when it comes to minimising costs?
A. Increased taxes being levied by the government, indirect taxes, cost of infrastructure, power crisis, security issues, network shutdown, license cost, regulatory barrier on commercial activity as well as right of way are the main challenge in minimising costs. However, despite all these challenges, it does not deter our focus and we will continue striving hard to offer world class services to our customers.

Q. Will load-shedding affect the quality of 3G services?
A. Load-shedding will not affect the quality of 3G service. In fact it will provide relief to our customers by facilitating them to use internet and watch their favorite programs or chat with their friends during power outages.

Q. Will 3G technology enhance the scope of growth in different non-profit and commercial sectors including mobile-banking, m-health, m-government, and m-education?
A. Just like cellular service did for Pakistan earlier, 3G will help increasing the GDP growth, encourage infrastructure investments, improve productivity and create numerous employment opportunities across industries. It will help increase student proficiency, reduce fraud and economic leakage in the financial sector, improve farm production in the agriculture sector, etc. The evolution of technology has made life easier for our customer base. Things that they would have to do earlier with a lot more time and effort have now been made easier as they can get things done with a simple of click on their phones. The launch of 3G services in Pakistan is great news as it will not only improve the general standard of life and the quality of the way business is done but will also help boost the economy.

Q. How can 3G technology be utilised for information purposes?
A. Users can use 3G for watching TV on their handsets, downloading and streaming videos at high speed, sharing clips as well as an enriched social media experience. The technology can simply be explained in one way: high speed internet. It improves the overall experience of using the internet on the mobile phone. Every internet-related service on your mobile set will speed up.

Q. What about the increasing trend of using apps and social media platforms on cellphones?
A. The advent of 3G will increase the internet usage multifold due to the superior customer experience 3G will offer. Downloading speeds will go up, which will automatically generate a lot of interest in the use of various applications, online shopping and many other online services.
Customer engagement will increase due to rich content experience. High speeds would mean that the experience of using social media platforms would improve. This will not only generate more users but will also improve the overall experience of staying connected with the world all the time.

Q. Now that the spectrum auction is over, what is Ufone’s strategy for the next 6-12 months?
A. This is a major milestone for the telecommunication industry of Pakistan. We have been working to get 3G technology in Pakistan for a while and it fills us with immense pride and joy that our efforts have finally paid off. Ufone will strive to provide excellent coverage to meet customer expectations and remain in compliance with the Information Memorandum (IM). We will make sure that our customers enjoy the benefits of 3G technology while we provide them with unparalleled technical support.

Q. How is it that your subscribers experienced 3G before its commercial launch?
A. We have launched a free 3G trial for our consumers in Lahore in order for them to get a firsthand feel of third generation mobile telephony and its wonders. Free 3G service is available for both postpaid and prepaid customers.
This would provide them hands on experience of 3G service and the various benefits that are coupled with it. The real benefits of 3G for users are only realised when the service is available seamlessly without any break across the whole coverage area. The 3G services of Ufone assure high level of connectivity that enables uninterrupted usage.

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