Better late than never, right? As Pakistan joins the rest of South Asia in offering 4G access in most major cities, questions arise as to how this will alter the landscape of Pakistan’s diversifying economy. More importantly, will 4g serve as a groundbreaking new network of opportunity for entrepreneurs and startups, or will it barely have a measurable impact?
The primary excitement behind the arrival of a 4g network can be attributed to one thing: speed – that is, a faster network than ever before. . In a nation where limited Internet access and outdated networks have plagued professionals for years, it’s no wonder this is big news and for many, a big relief. Of course, users need smartphones that are compatible with a 4G network, and speeds tend to vary slightly between providers.
In September 2014, Pakistan got it’s first taste of the future of technology through Zong, which launched a 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. Warid followed suit just weeks later, becoming one of the few to skip right from 2G to 4G.
While it’s easy to understand the concept of a faster, more advanced network, it’s difficult to perceive just what that means for Pakistanis and entrepreneurs in their day-to-day life. For those on a budget (aka, everyone), determining whether the costs outweigh the benefits is of concern. One of the major improvements with a 4G network is that the increased speeds are accessible from anywhere. Unlike those using previous networks, 4G users don’t have to be at home to enjoy a faster, more reliable mobile connection – and that’s the point of mobile, right? On the surface, this reduces the barriers once faced by entrepreneurs who are perpetually “on the go,” and encourages professional mobility. The luxury of accessibility is a breath of fresh air for those who want to squeeze in a video conference on the way to lunch, or simply look up directions right before a meeting. For those who spend most of their day at the office, this won’t be as enticing.
To put our progress into perspective, 2g networks, which dominated the market nearly a decade ago, had 10 times lower data rates than 3g networks. Now, we’re even further ahead, with millions of Pakistanis already riding the 3G bandwagon, and a slow trickle of others joining 4G. In just a few short years, much of the world has migrated from 2g to 2.5, to 3, and now 4.
If the faster speed of 4g LTE still seems trivial, let’s consider some more implications.
When considering which industries could benefit from the upgrade, it would be easier to count those that couldn’t. Virtually all industries could be affected, including retail and healthcare, which utilize various network applications daily. And while complex, technology-centric enterprises are the ones with the most obvious incentive to upgrade, small business owners can reap the benefits with a few smart moves.
Food truck operator, Mark Gevaux reported a dramatic increase in sales since his switch to a 4g network, proving that increased network speeds can really change things for the little guys. “The fact that I can get to so many people so quickly, and show them what I’m cooking and where I am, is incredibly powerful. Even before customers have left their homes I am creating demand,” he told Cisco’s Technology News Site.
So the immediate, personal benefits are clear: faster downloads, video calling, and live streaming like Gevaux utilized, just to name a few. But the indirect benefits? Some sources project an increase in Pakistani startup employment opportunities as growth occurs. Many also believe the new network will foster a jump in entrepreneurship, as more individuals are equipped with the tools they need. Access to a 4G network may level the playing field for smaller businesses and businesses in rural areas who are hoping to compete with larger entities. Businesses that use e-commerce will also see an increase in the amount of customers exposed to their products. Lastly, IT management systems are expected to see some of the most significant improvements – when coupling a 4G LTE network and remote monitoring software, troubleshooting issues becomes less daunting.
On an even broader scale, Pakistanis can remain optimistic about the country’s GDP. The ITU World Telecommunications Database Statistics reported that a country’s GDP per capita tends to rise about 10% when their broadband penetration rate rises just 1%.
While some may not notice a huge difference after upgrading from 3g and 4g, this is yet another step forward on the yellow brick road of technological upgrades that continuously tweak the way businesses operate.