Pakistan, like many other developing
countries, has seen an explosion in its mobile communications market
in recent years. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)
reported a 65.4 percent mobile teledensity (The number of mobile
phones in use for every 100 individuals) and a total of 108,894,518
subscribers in June 2011. The number of subscribers has increased
threefold since 2005.
Measuring the number of
mobile phone users is challenged by shared use of phones, those who
own more than one SIM card, and the ownership of SIM cards by
non-phone owners. While the number of mobile subscribers is
officially 108 million, according to the PTA, those with phone access
might be higher and conversely those with actual mobile phone
ownership might be lower.
This dilemma is
illustrated in studies of mobile phone access and use by gender in
Pakistan. According to the Pakistan Institute of Public Opinion
(PIPO) 2010 Media Report, there seems to be a large gender disparity
in mobile phone ownership. However, the 2010
Mobile Life Pakistan Report produced by the Gilani Research
Foundation measures regular use as opposed to ownership. Very
different results appear.
In addition to gender,
James Linton Williams, founder of the Popular Engagement Policy Lab
(PEPL) talks about similar disparities across income groups on a
recent PEPL report. He cites 2009 survey data from LIRN
Asia, where they surveyed the poorest 60 percent of Pakistan’s
population. The study shows that, of the 109 million people in that
bracket, only 40.33 million own mobile phones, but 104.64 million (96
percent of the 109 million) had used a phone in the three months
prior to the survey.
activities, most Pakistani mobile users use their mobile phones to
make calls, according to the 2010 Mobile Life Pakistan Report.
Another activity, known as missed calling, is also popular. This
involves dialing a number, and then immediately when the calls gets
through, disconnecting it after 1-2 rings and before the receiver
picks up in order to save both parties from being charged incoming or
outgoing rates. Many Pakistanis might have predetermined signals
that these missed calls give (for example: a missed call could mean
the caller will be home in 10 minutes, or has reached a destination,
or will be here to pick you up). In general it is a free way to