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Pakistan lures '19 mobe makers' to open local factories

Hasn't said which brands have signed up, but is happy to have them make 2G and 3G kit for a decade

Analysis Pakistan has announced it has secured 19 cellphone manufacturers willing to work on its soil, and that their efforts will improve device affordability and availability for locals and help the nation’s prospects as a tech exporter.

An announcement from Pakistan's Telecommunication Authority doesn’t name any of the 19 chosen outfits but says they’re a mix of “foreign and local companies.”

All will be expected to promote their devices as having been made in Pakistan, in the hope of highlighting the nation’s manufacturing capabilities and encouraging local buyers to spend their money with local suppliers. The Telecommunication Authority also hopes that the 19 players' involvement will result in lower-cost phones for those in Pakistan.

The announcement also says that authorization has been given to build “2G/3G/4G” devices, and that the equipment may be exported to other countries.

Looking closer

While the Telecommunication Authority has promoted its actions as an unalloyed good, The Register can’t help but find a few wrinkles in the scheme.

For starters, just two months ago in March the authority claimed 33 cellphone assembly plants had been opened in Pakistan since 2019. How the market can cope with these 19 mobe makers is not addressed in the latest announcement.

Consider, too, the state of the global mobile device market, which analyst firm Counterpoint recently reported sees 82 per cent of smartphone sales go to Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, Oppo, vivo, Huawei, and realme. Unless Pakistan has attracted some of those companies, its plan means Pakistanis and export customers may not be offered top-tier kit.

Another thing to consider is that the authorizations run for ten years but don’t cover 5G devices. The Register expects that a decade from today, nations at Pakistan’s level of development and potential export customers will have considerable 5G networks, yet this policy keeps manufacturers out of what is likely to be a global growth market. Pakistan's rivals, such as India, have no such restrictions on their investment attraction efforts. India is also offering subsidies to mobe makers.

Finally, The Register spent a few minutes on and quickly found questionable Android smartphones for under $10 apiece, and more reputable products for under $50. Just how local manufacturing will make even cheaper devices available in Pakistan has not been explained, given that most components would be imported.

Pakistan does, however, boast a population of over 200 million people, a ready market for locally made products. ®

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