Zong, Pakistan’s largest 4G operator, is planning further network expansion in Q4 2017 as it reinvests its revenues.
The company has made a commitment to reinvest "all earned revenues" in Pakistan. "Any revenue earned from the people of Pakistan will be spent back on the people of Pakistan, to give them a stable, advanced and reliable network" said Maham Dard, Director Corporate Affairs & Strategy at Zong. "Our first goal is to help the Pakistani people adopt a digital lifestyle through Zong 4G. We will continue to re-invest in Pakistan, on the Pakistani people."
What this means in practice is a further up-scaling its network by increasing the number of its 3G/4G sites to around 10,500 by the end of the current year. This comes on top of existing investments in Pakistan worth US$3 Billion over the past five years since Zong launched.
Zong has been very successful in Pakistan. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), as at July 2017 it is the 4G market leader with 4.4 million subscribers, significantly more than the 1.6 million combined total of Jazz and Telenor. In terms of overall share Zong is now number two in the marketplace with 13 million subscribers, narrowly behind overall market leader Jazz, with 13.5 million subscribers. Former market leader Telenor was overtaken in 2015 and now has a total of 11 million subscribers according to the PTA, fewer than 1 million of which are on 4G.
Zong says it is fully geared towards digitally transforming the lives of the Pakistani people, with an overarching vision of shared prosperity at a regional level. The commitment forms part of parent company, China Mobile Pakistan’s focus on the "Belt and Road" initiative.
What this means in practice is not yet clear. Zong has said it plans to implement "a series of targeted and sustainable investments dedicated to expanding not only the country’s communications infrastructure, but also the potential of the people that are helping build it... and digitally empower the people of Pakistan from the ground up."
As far as Developing Telecoms is aware this is the first time an operator has made an overt commitment to reinvest all revenues earned within the country it operates in. How much of this will be channelled towards network and service expansion, how much will go towards social initiatives and over what period of time the commitment lasts all remains to be seen.
It is relatively common for network operators in emerging markets to contribute towards the wider development of the countries within which they operate with social initiatives such as CSR schemes, local sponsorships, humanitarian projects and not-for-profit foundations. While it is easy to dismiss some of these types of activity as public relations and goodwill gestures, the best schemes do have a genuine beneficial impact in the wider societies they operate in, beyond the mobile industry.