A Chinese telecom company's struggle and triumph in Pakistan

By Wang Wei
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, September 28, 2018
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Walking around a suburb of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, one can find walls painted green with advertisements reading "ZONG 4G A NEW DREAM."

Wang Hua, chief executive officer of CMPak. [Photo by Wang Wei/China.org.cn]

Zong is a brand operating under China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak), a 100-percent owned subsidiary of the world's largest telecom company China Mobile Communications Corporation.

CMPak — formerly Paktel, a wireless carrier in Pakistan — was founded in 2007 as China Mobile's first venture outside China, and has seen exponential growth in the past 11 years, according to Wang Hua, the fifth chief executive officer of CMPak.

"We actually have suffered great difficulties since the acquisition of Paktel in 2007," Wang said. "Faced with a fully competitive and open market in Pakistan, we cannot enjoy any special policy or treatment. Hence, the operating costs here are quite far beyond those at home."

Moreover, Pakistan is a country with high taxes, which makes the company's operations more difficult, Wang added. "CMPak didn't make any profit until 2016, and continued in 2017."

Currently, CMPak has more than 31 million customers in Pakistan, accounting for about 21 percent of the market. The number of its 4G subscribers has reached 8 million, ranking first in the industry. It is estimated that the company's revenue will increase by more than 20 percent this year, according to Wang.

Supporting Belt and Road projects

"Strictly speaking, CMPak is not a Belt and Road project; however, one of our important missions is to provide support for such projects and serve interested Chinese enterprises and their employees," Wang explained.

So far, CMPak has been providing information technology solutions for 194 Chinese firms in Pakistan, including 160,000 individual clients.

Wang once visited the Gwadar Port in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan — a key part of the Belt and Road Initiative — which offers the shortest and most convenient trade route to Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Learning that Chinese workers were experiencing difficulty in keeping in touch with their families back in China, CMPak set up five basic stations and succeeded in solving the problem through satellite communications in the first half of this year.

"Now they can use our 4G signals to call home every day. Most of the workers have little kids at home; a call will give them great support and comfort," Wang said, adding that 10 more basic stations will be built in the following years.

CMPak also carried out cooperation with China Three Gorges Corporation, China Huaneng Group, China State Construction Engineering Corporation and other Chinese enterprises to provide high-speed Wi-Fi internet services for their bases and projects in Pakistan.

"China-Pakistan Economic Corridor aims to facilitate connectivity through infrastructure construction," said Wang. "What we are doing is to build a China-Pakistan information highway to bring more economic cooperation between the two countries."

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