Pakistan: Facebook and Nayatel to offer internet access to 15 million citizens across 8 cities

This first-of-its-kind investment of social media giant Facebook in Pakistan indicates tremendous growth potential in the country’s technology sector and towards improving connectivity in the region. Image Credit: REUTERS

Islamabad: Facebook has partnered with Pakistan’s telecom company Nayatel to expand Internet connectivity and pave the way for digital transformation.

The collaboration would provide affordable, high-speed and reliable Internet access to an estimated 10 to 15 million Pakistanis in eight major cities.

Under this partnership, Nayatel “will own, build, maintain, and operate a new fibre network and provide wholesale capacity to mobile operators and ISPs,” and Facebook will invest in the 1650 km-long fibre network. “This high-speed fibre will connect thousands of sites by 2022, and improve capacity and the geographical reach of internet access” for millions, Nayatel said.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has also assured its support for the project to improve and expand connectivity in the country.

First-of-its-kind initiative

This first-of-its-kind investment of social media giant Facebook in Pakistan indicates tremendous growth potential in the country’s technology sector and towards improving connectivity in the region. “We’re excited for this first-ever partnership of a Pakistani company with Facebook to expand fibre broadband to bring high-speed internet to millions of customers,” said CEO Nayatel Wahaj us Siraj.

By investing and supporting the building of fibre networks in Pakistan, Facebook is helping local operators leverage fibre infrastructure to improve access to affordable broadband. The partnership is part of Facebook’s efforts to bring fast and reliable internet connectivity to people around the world, including in Pakistan, said Tom Varghese, head of connectivity and access policy (Asia Pacific), Facebook. The two companies would “enable more open-access fibre infrastructure,” he said, adding that a progressive and collaborative regulatory environment “will help to attract further investments to improve internet connectivity in Pakistan.”

Talking to Gulf News, Fasieh Mehta, an expert on startups and e-governance, said the Facebook-Nayatel collaboration is “monumental” for Nayatel and Pakistan’s digital ecosystem. “Facebook partnering with local Pakistani companies such as Nayatel offers immense benefits to the country. Masses would benefit greatly from the availability of better, reliable and faster Internet. We will also have a bigger infrastructure of fibre laid down in the country which means it will open up access to the information superhighway” for millions, said Mehta, senior business operations manager at Quixel. The improved Internet access in Pakistan – a country of 220 million – would also be beneficial for companies like Facebook as more people would be online using their services and platforms, he added.

Currently, there are 101 million Internet users in Pakistan including 98m 3G and 4G subscribers, according to the March 2021 data shared by PTA. Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the shift to the digital domain as more educational and healthcare organizations now offer online services.

Pakistan’s digital transformation

The new fibre networks deployed by Nayatel would serve as the backbone infrastructure for 4G/5G mobile and fixed broadband – a key driver of economic growth and job creation. Nayetel says the network will further support Pakistan’s digital revolution. “This collaboration will accelerate the government’s vision of digital Pakistan by increasing productivity for small and medium businesses, creating new job opportunities and online learning for the youth,” said Siraj. “The partnership demonstrates confidence from a leading global brand like Facebook in Pakistan’s tech and entrepreneurial potential” Nayatel hopes that the Pakistan government “will implement fast track reforms with predictable regulations and policies to attract more foreign investors in the tech sector”.

Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan held a virtual meeting with Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and invited the tech company to invest in Pakistan to support local startups as well as health and education initiatives.