YouTube ban lift may offer respite to ISPs

KARACHI: The unblocking of YouTube officially in Pakistan has given room to Internet service providers over mobile phone companies to revive their business in the domestic and commercial sectors, cashing on in strength of their connectivity and speed in operating cities.

Broadband Internet service providers using technology of DSL, Wimax and FTTH may not only witness increase in the utility of their networks but their new subscribers may increase in different cities because of uninterrupted and high quality and speedy video streaming. On the other hand, the broadband Internet services, through 3G/4G technologies, could not guarantee at present download and uploading of videos with speed and continuity, particularly in areas with weak network strength. It also depicted the quality of service survey of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) which showed unsatisfactory speed of services by all operators providing 3G and 4G services

Internet service providers have been facing a tough time in the growth of subscription since the launch of 3G and 4G services in the mid of 2013 by mobile phone companies. Their subscribers base stood at 3.795 million by the end of July 2013 and failed to grow on their networks, and started contracting gradually, resulting in the base decreasing to 3.127 million by November 2015, PTA statistics show, despite the fact that many of them substantially revised their packages, including by reducing charges and enhancing data limit.

The restoration of YouTube will give a comparative advantage to ISPs over mobile phone companies’ claming fast Internet on their networks, said Wahajus Siraj, spokesman of Internet Service Providers of Pakistan (ISPak). Yes, Internet service on fixedline is comparatively of better quality than on 3G and 4G, he added.

The number of subscribers at domestic and commercial side may increase on the network of ISPs but it depends on the quality of services of Internet and broadband company, which could not be estimated in numbers at the moment, he added.

The video-sharing website has been restored in the country after three years and four months since it was banned in September 2013 because of a blasphemous video. This made users use proxies and alternative websites such as Dailymotion, Vimeo and local Ytpak.pk. In spite of efforts of Internet users, various proxies did not work for them due limited access to YouTube with slow streaming and restricted content availability. On the other hand, different video-sharing websites were not helpful for them to have rich content on different subjects and genres mainly education and entertainment.

Surprisingly, YouTube was available on network of mobile phone companies because of its various definition operating systems of users’ handsets, but its speed of download and upload is uncertain. In fact, social networking websites are frequently used on networks of mobile phone companies at large, as compared with video-sharing and video-watching websites. The number of 3G/4G users has surged with accelerated growth to 21.658 million in two years and four months in more than 100 cities, but quality is not ensured in various cities, whereas their charges are not affordable.

YouTube is one of the top viewed sites in Pakistan and its viewers are likely to increase in future once again, as a matter of fact the utility of the websites is immense not only for education and entertainment purposes but for many commercial aspects. Though many handsets have application of sharing Internet, but subscribers are more comfortable to use internet of fixedline or Wimax technology through WiFi, which is of course available to them free of cost. The advantage of ISPs over cellular phone will no longer exist as mobile phone operators continue to invest in their infrastructure to improve and expand their 3G and 4G services, said telecom analyst Saeed Azfar.

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