July / August  2006




August/September Contents 

Sufis - wisdom against

 Sufi poet saints

 50 years of mountain

 Interviews with:
 Ajaz Anwar
Iqbal Hussain
Kamil Mumtaz

 Heritage cities:
 Taxila Dharmrajika
 Bhera - Part I
Bhera - Part II


Cotton - the fibre of

Cotton textiles of
 South Asia

 Handlooms & Dyes

 Hiran Minar


 Lahore Gymkhana

 B2B - Part I

B2B - Part II

Optical Networks I
Optical Networks II

Role of Internet in
 S Asian development

Technology and
 investment in US
 stock markets

Security & Trust in
 Internet banking

 Telecom & software
 - trends & future in
 South Asia

China & India - major
 players by 2025

Pakistan - IT Markets
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV









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 Page  2  of  10

Telecom & Software - Trends & Future in South Asia



Salman Minhas

 First published in December 2001

Telecom  Raj - Bitter Harvest of Ignorance .


The Telecom sector in India and Pakistan has consisted of the sole monopoly of the industry in the public sector / government bureaucrats' hands. These in turn were dominated by European Telephone Switch manufacturers monopolies - primarily Siemens , Alcatel, Ericsson.

  The policies dated back to the British Raj/ rule of India namely the Indian Post & Telegraph act of 1885 , which ironically is still the basis for all matters related to Telecom policies in India , Pakistan , Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. Later on the Postal department was separated as the telephone became more prevalent.

  The number of telephones per hundred people is considered to be strongly correlated to the level of poverty  or well being by the International Telecom Union [ ITU] and is borne out by facts. To this day the tele-density of South Asia remains one of the lowest in the world . It ranges from 0.5 in the poorest regions in Orissa to 2.5 [ regional average ]  and the highest is 4.0  which is the maximum in more developed regions of Maharashtra, Gujarat , Punjab.

Policies such as the prevention of putting Fax machines on the telephone lines were in effect upto1980 in Pakistan. Small business telephone exchanges were not allowed to be used without permission from the Telecom authorities. Ironically when Fax machines were allowed in Pakistan , Telecom revenues jumped as trade related Fax traffic with Japan and the West exploded.

Yet in 1994 An Engineer in the Lahore Telecom Circle was not aware that a modem could be used on a telephone line to transmit data. Similarly the use of paging systems, Mobile telephone & Data networks were only allowed after bitter struggle with the Ministry of Telecoms and other national Bodies including the Defence Ministries who to this day control the radio frequency spectrum. The changing Telecom policies resulting from the pressures of De-regulation/ Privatisation are spelt out in coming  issues of  The-South-Asian. Some of these stories are reflected in the articles on the major personalities in this article.

The last stand of these bodies  is the prevention of the Internet Telephony technology called Voice over Internet Protocol [ VO-IP]. This technology is still being resisted as it would eat into the major portion of the International long-distance revenues of the South Asian National PTTs. In 1995 a call from Lahore to Karachi cost the same as a call to London , U.K..

Long distance revenues were used by PTTs in South Asian countries to subsidise local calls. Again the situation is similar to the banning of Fax machines - lack of foresight , vision that volumes are the key to a business that is a commodity now.

Similarly in the case of the allocation and selling of the wireless spectrum , arguments are still given by these Institutions about the national defence and security issues in an age when the introduction of encryption technologies makes nonsense of this line of reasoning. Valuable wealth making opportunities are being lost as time goes by and mindless ignorant and backward looking officials  avoid making changes that can release our people from poverty and offer hope and opportunity very much as Grameen Telecom has done in Bangladesh. [ see The-South_Asian ---- issue  ]






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