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The Fixed Broadband Challenge

You can download the full paper here.

The Internet has become a basic necessity ingrained in every aspect of daily life, whether that is in terms of communication, social media, service delivery or education. This rapid digitisation was particularly made evident during Covid-19, which highlighted the limitations and gaps in Pakistan’s connectivity landscape, characterised by high mobile broadband usage and low smartphone penetration. To optimise its digital economy and transition to 5G technology, Pakistan must expand high speed Internet connectivity by strengthening its fixed-line and fibre optic infrastructure.

Why is Fixed Broadband important?

  • Fixed broadband offers a faster and more reliable connection than mobile broadband
  • Fixed line infrastructure powers mobile broadband by connecting cell sites to mobile switching centres over a backhaul network
  • Fibre optic infrastructure can enable 5G connectivity in addition to improving 4G
  • Growing data demands at an average 8 to 10 GB per user will require better broadband quality


A strong broadband landscape can power three forms of critical connectivity:

  1. Individual: for entertainment, service delivery, public services, employment and more
  2. Family: to provide instant and reliable communication between families with increasing preference for rich media use-cases
  3. Enterprise: to power communication, collaboration, access to data, information and knowledge, and other business-critical applications


Fibre in Pakistan

Pakistan’s fibre landscape is characterised by:

  • 130,000 to 150,000 kilometres of fibre laid out in Pakistan
  • 9% of cell towers are connected to fibre compared to
    international benchmarks of 40%
  • Less than half million FTTH subscribers in a market of at least 10 million potential subscribers. This means Pakistan has only 4% FTTH penetration

A market gap of this size presents an investment opportunity of up to USD 6 billion and will require addressing the following challenges


Key Challenges

  • Sub-optimal levels of investment at USD 150 to 250 million per annum
  • Limited market competition and little to no sharing of infrastructure
  • Unfavourable policy and regulatory environment with high fees, slow implementation, and Right-of-Way issues



Targeted policy interventions are required in the following priority areas:

  1. Raising the importance of fixed broadband by establishing broadband as a critical infrastructure
  2. Developing a national broadband strategy by creating a national fibre plan, reducing barriers for expedited rollout, and enhancing accountability
  3. Improve the investment climate and availability of financing across the digital ecosystem
  4. Improving administration at all tiers of the government to speed up implementation


You can download the full paper here.


Aliza Amin
+ posts

Aliza Amin is a Policy Associate at Tabadlab’s Centre for Digital Transformation, where she is responsible for research and analysis of the policy landscape, evolution of digital ecosystems and advisory for transformations. She has been a researcher at Wellesley College and MIT and has worked with non-profit organisations in Pakistan, Morocco and the United States. Aliza graduated from Wellesley College in 2020.

+ posts

Umar Nadeem is the Head of Advisory at Tabadlab. He works at the intersection of evidence, technology and policy with experience in policy analysis, design and management of large-scale programmes and digital transformations, and has led multi-disciplinary portfolios advising governments and corporations in Asia, Europe and Africa. Umar holds a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

Navid Qazi
+ posts

Navid brings over two decades of experience in setting up and growing technology centric businesses in international markets. Most recently, he was responsible for Cisco’s Web-Scale, Cloud and Global Accounts segment in APJC based in Singapore. He has been advising early stage tech companies to expand their global footprint across Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. He is a certified board director having been on the Board of American Business Council. He has also attended executive education programs at MIT Sloan and INSEAD.