5G, the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, and successor to 4G, has been a late guest to Pakistan. While millions of people worldwide have access to 5G, the technology standard is not yet available in Pakistan. However, now a timeline has been estimated for when Pakistan will roll out 5G—the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom has announced that it is aiming to roll out 5G in 2023.

This is still quite some time to go. The GSMA, in a report titled “The Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2021”, has projected that Pakistan will be at the lowest end in terms of smartphone users as well as in the 5G coverage. Pakistan is behind countries like Brunei Darussalam, India and Cambodia, which are set for 5G roll-outs in 2022, and a far cry from South Korea, Australia, Maldives and New Zealand, which rolled out 5G in 2018 and 2019.

However, it is hoped that a timeline will provide an impetus for telecom providers to get on infrastructure development. The Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haque said key initiatives have been taken which will help the country surpass the projections made by the GSMA.

There has been some positive development—exports of cell phones are a burgeoning potential trade area for Pakistan. According to Minister Amin Ul Haque, the government is hoping to increase exports of IT services up to $5bn by the end of 2022-23. However, rather than concentrating on a few areas, the government also needs to lend attention to widening the user base in the country. Accessibility and infrastructure are weak points—as the pandemic and lack of success of online schools have shown. The widening user base needs better and improved infrastructure for the digital economy to truly flourish, along with ensuring that the internet is accessible beyond just urban areas.

Originally published at The Nation

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