CPEC-Reshaping IT Infrastructure of Pakistan

After a major outage in the international submarine cable system IMV (International Multi-Purpose Vehicle) on 5 of August, 2017 led to disruption in internet services over the weekend in whole country. Internet subscribers reportedly faced difficulties after the 13,000km-long IMV cable, extending from India till France, was affected by a technical fault near Jeddah on Saturday. Authorities were unable to fix the inoperative CMV 4. Of the six internets cables, available in Pakistan only two are presently operative, as three remain affected by the technical fault. Where international consortium has identified the fault in IMEWE (India-Middle East-Western Europe) cable near Saudi Arabia. Outage in international submarine cable systems providing internet bandwidth to Pakistan, IMEWE. Because of which customers were facing slow internet browsing along with various connectivity issues and some international flights were also cancelled because of weak signal connectivity between the two servers. Among the cancelled flights were Dubai-bound PA210, Manchester-bound 701, Madina-bound NL705 and Karachi-bound PA201, according to flight inquiry. Dubai-Islamabad flight PA211, Karachi-Islamabad flight PK368, Jeddah-Islamabad flight 742 and Madina-Islamabad flight NL706 were also cancelled.

The Internet in Pakistan has been available since the early 1990s. Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. In 2001 just 1.3 percent of the population used the Internet. By 2006 this figure had grown to 6.5 percent and in 2012 to 10.0 percent. The percentage on broad band internet users in Pakistan is now 18.8 percent which means now more than 32 Million people surf internets. Apart from operating one of the four undersea fiber-optic cables, the PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited) is the largest internet backbone provider in the country with more than 1.3 million subscribers in over 2,000 cities and towns across Pakistan. This 3-fiber pair system with total length of approximately 12,091km is complemented with nine terminal stations forming a consortium of nine telecom carriers from eight countries, including PTCL. While we don’t have direct confirmation from ISPs (Internet Service Providers) themselves just yet, it appears that the internet disruption is more severe for PTCL and ISPs that rely on PTCL’s bandwidth. Other ISPs are facing outages on shorter scale. So, the breakdown in network connectivity completely disable our worldwide connections. This was not the first-time internet connectivity throughout the country has been affected by cable faults. In fact, it is pretty common and in the past, has affected select services as well including several call centers and cellular networks which include basic back bone for our connectivity to the globe.

Information communication technologies (ICT) sector comes under services sector and Pakistan has a largest share of this sector in his economy that is more than 54 percent. The services sector has also recorded an increase in growth as it finished at 5.98 percent in 2016-2017 compared to last year’s figures which enabled it to stand at 5.70 percent. Latest 2016-17. Economic survey quoted that Pakistan has consistent growth in IT remittances over the last decade at compound annual growth rate of 23 percent. Annual revenue generation from IT (Information Technology) segment is around 500 Million USD and it will achieve estimated 2.8 Billion USD exports per year. Reported FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in the sector of services from July 2016 to March 2017 is 55 Million USD. On the same grounds, if we look at our neighboring countries they have more than spending in these sectors for improvements of technologies. The government in India is forecast to spend 7.8 billion USD on IT in 2017, a 7.5 percent increase from 2016, according to Gartner, Inc. This is down from Gartner’s previous projection for 9.5 percent growth this year. So, we must have to follow some steps regarding communication networks which will help us to improve our ICT sector in correspondence with optic fiber illusions. Where in this regard Pakistan-China Fiber Optic Project is playing a key role, and helping us to improve our ICT infrastructure in this globe.

In co-ordinance with CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) there are now ways which will lead us to improve our various connectivity issues because there is an under-construction 820 kilometer long optical fiber cable with an estimated cost of 44 million USD being laid between the Khunjerab Pass on the China-Pakistan border and the city of Rawalpindi which is almost completed. The line will connect the Transit Europe-Asia Terrestrial Cable Network with that of Pakistan, which currently transmits its telecom and internet traffic through four undersea fiber optic cables, with another three undersea fiber optic cables under construction. 466.54 kilometers of the route will be located in Gilgit-Baltistan, while 287.66 kilometers will be laid in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 47.56 kilometers will be in Punjab province, and 18.2 kilometers in Islamabad Capital Territory. So, this back-haul fiber optic cable will provide Pakistan with a direct telecom access to China, Central Asian States and from there to Europe and to and from the United States with which we will have backup resource of connectivity throughout the country. And this cable is also very reliable because of its concealed infrastructure, the capacity is more than the current capacity of Pakistan and because of this cable the speed would be faster than current available speed.

Under an umbrella of CPEC this fiber-optic Internet installation can offer numerous benefits to business IT pros and landlords. For today’s companies, fast Internet connectivity has moved from being a convenience to a critical component of business success. Due to the relative newness of this technology, you may be wondering if the benefits outweigh the cost or cons. Productivity issues that are directly attributed to slow or unreliable cable Internet could disappear with fiber. Copper cable Internet that supports broadband is sensitive to electromagnetic interference, which can be caused by the proximity of heavy machinery. Fiber internet signals do not degrade or disappear due to electromagnetic interference. While fiber-optic Internet connectivity is a much newer technology than broadband Internet on copper cable, many businesses have found significant higher returns on their investment in fiber. Where it also eliminates latency (delays in data transferring) issues which will lead it to business benefits. Perhaps more importantly business will gain flexibility and scalability with fiber-optic Internet connectivity and also an IT if, IT team is hoping to move more applications and services to the cloud, a fiber connection can support these initiatives.



Mr. Yasir Arrfat, Acting Head of Policy, Center of Excellence-China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CoE-CPEC)

  Mr. Muhammad Sheryar Fulaly, Research Assistant, Centre Of Excellence-China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CoE-CPEC).


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