The production of mobile phones by local manufacturing plants has surpassed the number of commercial mobile phones imports in the country during January-September 2021, as the local production was recorded at 16.15 million compared to the imported mobile phones of 9.02 million.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) data revealed that this trend reflects a positive uptake on the PTA’s Mobile Device Manufacturing (MDM) Authorization regulatory regime, whereby local manufacturing within the first year of regime introduction has resulted in the production of 16.15 million phones in a short span of nine months including 6.72 million 4G smartphones.

The successful implementation of the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS), along with conducive government policies, including the mobile manufacturing policy, has created a favorable environment for mobile device manufacturing in Pakistan.

It has also contributed positively to the mobile ecosystem of Pakistan by eliminating the counterfeit device market providing a level-playing field for commercial entities, and has created trust among consumers due to the formulation of standardized legal channels for all sorts of device imports.

The government had introduced a mobile manufacturing policy to encourage and attract manufacturers to establish their units in Pakistan. The PTA, in light of the policy, issued Mobile Device Manufacturing (MDM) Regulations on 28th January 2021.

Till now, 26 companies have been issued MDM Authorisation enabling them to manufacture mobile devices in Pakistan. The companies include renowned brands, e.g., Samsung, Nokia, Oppo, TECNO, Infinix, Vgotel, Q-mobile, etc. Commercial imports against manufacturing trends can be seen at the PTA website, the authority added.

Nauman Khalid, Director Type Approvals and Device Identification Registration & Blocking System (DIRBS), PTA, said the establishment of 26 manufacturing plants has brought in an investment of over $126 million and created over 10,000 jobs in a short span of seven months.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) data, Pakistan imported mobile phones worth $494.60 million during the first quarter (July-September) of 2021 compared to $492.893 million during the same period of last year, registering a growth of 0.42 percent.

The overall telecom imports into the country during the period under review (July-September) 2021 increased by 8.06 percent by going up from $590.255 million in July-September 2020 to $637.817 million in July-September 2021.

On a month-on-month basis, the imports of mobile phones into Pakistan increased by 25.38 percent during September 2021 and remained $209.013 million compared to $166.710 million imported in August 2021, the PBS data revealed. On year on year basis, mobile phones witnessed an increase of 12.05 percent compared to $186.530 million in September 2020.

On a month-on-month basis, the overall telecom imports into the country increased by 29.83 percent during September 2021 and remained $270.766 million compared to the imports of $208.558 million in August 2021. On a year-on basis, overall telecom imports witnessed 23.10 percent growth compared to $219.954 million in September 2020.

Other apparatus imports during July-September 2021 increased by 46.73 percent and remained $142.857 million compared to $97.362 million in July-September 2020. Other apparatus imports registered 47.56 percent growth on a month-on-month basis and remained $61.753 million in September 2021 compared to $41.848 million in August 2021 and registered 84.76 percent growth compared to $33.4246 million in September 2020.

Since the implementation of the Device Identification Registration & Blocking System (DIRBS), the import of mobile devices via legal channels increased by 62 percent, with revenue of Rs. 46.27 billion. In 2020, 38.14 million devices were imported with a revenue of Rs. 54 billion, and in 2021, so far, 20.91 million devices have been imported through legal channels.

PTA has blocked 175 thousand devices IMEIs reported as stolen through DIRBS. The System has also identified and blocked 26.03 Million fake/replica mobile devices from use on local networks. Moreover, 880,780 cloned/duplicated IMEIs against 5.28 million MSISDN were identified and blocked. The connectivity of smartphones on the local networks has been increased from 35 percent to 51 percent as of July 2021 after the implementation of DIRBS.

According to the sector experts, Pakistan enjoys a low-cost labor advantage, a reasonably large home market having more than 185 million subscribers, which have increased approximately one percent per month during the last one year, 84 percent teledensity and efficient DIRBS in place, which make Pakistan an attractive market for mobile assembly.