Pakistan’s top four operators added 4.5 million 3G and 4G subscribers in Q3, a 33 per cent increase from the previous quarter.

The country now has 18 million 3G and 4G users after adding 2.24 million in September – its fastest growth in six months, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

The growth comes despite the government doubling the sales tax on various categories of imported mobile handsets in June to PKR300-1,000 ($3-$10) from PKR150-500 ($1.50-$5.00). It also introduced a 19.5 per cent sales tax on internet usage earlier in the year.

Market leader Mobilink added 1.25 million 3G users in Q3, while number 2 Telenor picked up 1.32 million. Zong, owned by China Mobile, saw its 3G and 4G connections expand by 968,000, and Ufone (run by state-owned PTCL) added 948,000 3G users, PTA reported.

Competition has intensified in the 3G market over the past year, with Telenor taking a 31 per cent share in Q3, followed by Mobilink with a 28 per cent share, Zong (19 per cent) and Ufone (18 per cent), ProPakistani said. A year ago Telenor had just a 13.5 per cent share of the 3G market.

The four operators had a 90 per cent market share at the end of September, according to GSMA Intelligence. 3G and 4G connections represent 13 per cent of the country’s 138 million mobile connections

Zong launched 4G service less than a year ago and had 194,000 connections in Q3, while Warid Telecom, with an 8.5 per cent market share, had 160,000 4G users.