Pakistan is set to open its first high-speed internet service next year, a move that is expected to boost economic activity and help build a national infrastructure.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said the service will provide fast internet connections to around 2.5 million people, or 40 percent of the population.
The new service will run on existing networks and will be offered in phases, the authority said in a statement Tuesday.
“The Pakistan Telecommunications Board has decided to initiate phase one of the new service with the intention to roll it out nationwide by the end of this year,” the authority added.
“Phase one will be based on a fibre optic network, which will offer a high-bandwidth internet connection to 2.3 million users,” the statement said.
The service is expected provide around 20 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, or $20 billion.
Pakistan is currently struggling to find broadband and mobile internet service, and a nationwide rollout of the service would be an important step to make the country more competitive in the global economy.
The first phase of the network will be launched in the first half of 2020.
It will be followed by a second phase in 2021 and the final phase by 2022, according to the authority.
A total of 6.5 billion people are currently eligible for the government’s National Broadband Plan, which aims to connect around 100 million people in five years.
It aims to bring internet to at least 100 million Pakistanis, but there are concerns about the speed and reliability of the rollout.
In March 2018, the Pakistani government approved a deal to buy a joint venture between a British telecom company and the state-owned Pakistan Telecom to build a fibre-optic network to connect rural areas with high-frequency internet connections.
That plan was approved last year by the government and is expected in 2018.
The deal is aimed at creating high-quality high-performance fibre networks in rural areas and connecting those areas to the rest of the country.
The government said in March 2018 that it plans to launch phase one services in 2021.
However, Pakistan has not yet launched a full-scale fibre-to-the-home network, and there are still concerns about internet connectivity in rural Pakistan.