China Mobile Pakistan, which operates under the Zong brand, announced plans to invest $200 million this year to expand its 3G and 4G networks.

The operator, which invested about $300 million in its 4G network so far, rolled out an additional 1,000 4G base stations last year to take its overall LTE tally to about 6,000 sites.

With the new investment, Zong aims to increase the number of 3G and 4G sites to 10,500, Pakistan newspaper The News reported. It expanded 4G coverage to 300 cities last year.

Third ranked Zong, with nearly 27 million mobile subscribers and a 19 per cent market share, grew its 3G user base 18 per cent to 7.1 million in the six months to end-2016, while its 4G numbers jumped more than threefold to 2.3 million, according to the Pakistan Telecoms Authority.

Despite the strong growth over the past 18 months, 3G and 4G subscribers accounted for only 27 per cent and 9 per cent of its mobile users respectively at the end of 2016, according to GSMA Intelligence.

Only Zong and Warid, which recently merged with market leader Mobilink (which now operates under the Jazz brand), have launched 4G services in the country.

Pakistan’s 3G/4G user base increased 27 per cent to 37.6 million in the July-December period, with 4G subscribers nearly tripling to 2.9 million.