2016 has been a year of great transformation
CEO – CMPak Ltd. (A China Mobile company)
Interview – Gulraiz Khalid
Mr. Liu Dianfeng graduated from Harbin Engineering University in 1991 with a Bachelors of Science in Navigation Engineering, completing a Masters in Acoustics from Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1996 & completing his EMBA in 2007 from Cheung Kong graduate school of business.
Mr. Liu has an extensive experience working at China Mobiles spanning over 17 years holding multiple leadership positions of Chief Technical Officer & Chief Commercial officer Beijing Company, Chairman of Labor Union & chief Commercial Officer at Jilin Company. He also has a diverse experience starting up his own business at China. His primary focus has been on network planning and online education. Mr. Liu was appointed as Chairman & CEO of China Mobiles Pakistan in October 2014.
Q: To begin with, how do you think Zong has evolved into a leading operator in Pakistan?
A: I think technology has the real advantage here, we have been able to capitalize on the latest 4G technology evolving in Pakistan very successfully. We have the largest, best quality 4G network coverage in Pakistan with the largest 4G subscriber base, and we will continue to increase our base with more and more network sites, more than 5,000 by the end of 2016 and be able to provide our services to more and more cities of this country. Our 4G is unbeatable in quality, service and coverage.
Q: Would you like to comment specifically on the performance of Zong throughout 2016?
A: 2016 has been a year of great transformation, particularly from our voice to our data services. Our 4G has yielded incredible terrific results for us and we have seen phenomenal growth in our data services demand, which is a sign that our customers are happy with our services. At this point, we have our 4G in more than 250 cities in Pakistan. Having said this, we are looking forward to a better 2017, with more sites, more investment in our network and more solution related services for our customers across the nation.
Q: How has the market responded in your opinion to the introduction of LTE 4G?
A: Market response actually depends on many factors, for example, quality, coverage, speed and most importantly price. We have been rated the best quality network by PTA, we have the best coverage, the fastest 4G speed & highest number of 4G sites and most of all, affordability. We think our products and our prices are the most affordable in the market. Considering all this, our customers have reacted to our 4G services in a very positive way.
Q: After the acquisition of Warid by Mobilink and 4G spectrum by Telenor, will there be any changes to Zong’s strategy moving forward?
A: Our strategy has always been to provide the best services to our customers through a more stable and reliable network and we will continue to focus on how we can continue to improve in this area. One area we will focus more in the future is how we can provide more solutions to different industries of Pakistan through our 4G network. Infact, we want the 4G market to develop in Pakistan, and we are happy that this merger will be an enabler for the 4G market to develop faster in the nation and continue to contribute to the 4G ecosystem in the industry. We are very open to a healthy and fair competition in business, so we take this in a very positive way.
Q: When and how do you see a future of IoT in Pakistan?
A: The answer to when is “now”. If the telco market doesn’t get engaged in IoT now in Pakistan, it will be too late, but I am happy to see that the market is responding to a strong IoT demand in Pakistan, which is a very positive sign. I hope all operators build this market together in Pakistan to benefit the local people & to introduce more and more solutions. Infact, advancement of IoT will help benefit the corporate sector and the government more than a single user. Exchange of information and smart data analytics can be a really strong tool for any country in its journey towards prosperity and progression. Zong will be a strong enabler in this area.
If the telco market doesn’t get engaged in IoT now in Pakistan, it will be too late, but I am happy to see that the market is responding to a strong IoT demand in Pakistan, which is a very positive sign”.
Q: Do you think our networks will be able to support an IoT ecosystem? (It is predicted that an average autonomous vehicle will need 4000GB per day by 2020)
A: It’s a long journey and it will take time but the market is reacting stronger and stronger in this area every year, especially after the 4G launch in the country. Awareness to the importance of data and IoT is becoming more and more essential as Pakistani markets compete in the international world. Some sections of this ecosystem are very visible, but some areas are still upcoming, for example, 4G handsets market share in the country is very low. Government itself needs to play a stronger role in developing this ecosystem by introducing more flexible policies, especially on the taxation side.
Q: Given your experience, what will be the key success factors for Mobile operators in Pakistan and beyond?
A: I think 3 things are very important: 1– The financial stability of the market itself in terms of a reasonable tariff 2– 4G market development and its contributors, meaning the 4G handsets availability in the system. 3– The ecosystem, meaning that voice and data are very different to each other. Voice is voice and has linear dimension, but data is very different and has many different dimensions. Understanding of data, its content, its application and its products are very different to that of voice, so the overall ecosystem to support data applications and products must be very strong.
All 3 of these things are extremely important, because the market is changing significantly. We can have the best 4G network, but if the users don’t have a 4G handset, it’s a challenge for the operator to sell its services. On the other hand, commercial tariff for mobile data and voice is one of the lowest in Pakistan with the highest taxation and the overall ecosystem is still in development phase. This balance needs to be adjusted for the market to recapitalize again.
Q: Would you like to comment or make any suggestions on the current policy framework with respect to regulation and spectrum issues etc.?
A: It’s a good and positive step, and if implemented correctly, it will benefit all mobile operators in the long run. At the same time, it does need more work to be able to solve some specific challenges the industry is facing.