Millions of Pakistan's internet connections
crippled after a fault in a sole sub-sea cable, developed early last
week which might last for another couple of days causing 'sudden
death' to IT-enabled economy.
Almost all the connections sank when a power cable,
which boost the fibre optic cable that connects Pakistan with the rest
of the world, hit a fault in deep Arabian Sea some 35 kilometers
southeast of Karachi coast.
"We inspected our onshore cable initially and
finally located the fault about 35 kilometers in deep sea," Chief
Engineer of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), Shahid
The cable connects Pakistan with South East Asia,
Middle East and Western Europe and thus named as SEAMEWE. Singaporean
telecom giant Singtel, which is part of 92 companies comprising
consortium that owns it, operates the cable.
"We are holding multilateral conference to fix
the problem and asked Singtel to arrange for the rectification of the
fault," Ahmed said.
The cable offers major communication capacity to
Pakistan as it caters to the 155*4 mega bits (MB) needs whereas the
country gets 25 MB through satellite connections.
"We heavily rely on the cable as it offers
155*4 MB bandwidth whereas satellite provides mere 28 MB,"
General Secretary of Internet Service Provider (ISP) Association of
Pakistan, V.A. Abdi, said.
The ISP association said that there were over two
million direct international connections in the country whereas
average users numbered over 10 million.
Meetings were going on to sort modalities to
rectify the fault as it would require shut down, causing disruption in
traffic to several countries linked with the cable.
"We are also engaged in finding lean time in
India, UAE-Oman, and Djibouti, which are linked with the cable and
would face disruption during repair," Ahmed said.
A UAE-based company was commissioned to repair the
"Singtel has appointed E-Marine of UAE to fix
the fault who have dispatched a ship which may take 18 to 24 hours to
reach the destination of fault," Ahmed said.
However, the enraged industry was skeptical of any
The cable, the sole link connecting Pakistani
telecommunication with the outer world implicated heavy losses to
country's recent liberalized telecom sectors.
"It is a sudden death for our industry,"
Farrukh Aslam, President Association of Pakistani Call Centres, said.
"Our 50 percent clients from the US ran away
in past two days and the rest were bent upon abandoning their
operation here," he said angrily and added:" They (PTCL) are
telling lie all the time about the repair time.
Call centres business has lately began here and the
Pakistani entrepreneurs had attracted over a dozen clients form the US
in past two years.
"They have ruined all our efforts as we were
hoping to attract much more business and could be more competitive to
neighbouring India who generates 14 billion dollars revenues from the
call centres," Aslam said.
Airlines, banking and foreign trade suffered
However, Pakistani telecom authorities were waiting
for the ship from United Arab Emirates to fix the fault in the key
submarine cable that severed the country from rest of the world.
"The ship will start sailing this (Wednesday)
afternoon as it had to be equipped with cables, joints and other
accessories and we have lined up urgent custom clearance here at our
part," Senior Executive Vice President of Pakistan
Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), Mashkoor Husain, said.
The complex repair work may require a complete shut
down, potentially causing disruption in India, the United Arab
Emirates, Djibouti and Oman, which are also linked to the damaged
cable, officials said.
"Taking into account the normal sailing time
(of the ship) and then locating the exact location of fault may take
another three to five days at the worst," Husain said.
The cable is owned by a consortium of 92 companies
with Singtel of Singapore acting as its operating agents. It sourced
out the repair assignment to E-marine, a UAE-based company.
The PTCL official, however, said that they were
making special backup arrangement to cater to the industry needs.
"We have made special arrangement for call
centres, IT-enabled banking activities and ISPs by providing satellite
backup," Husain said.
Nevertheless, the backup facilities were not
"We are faced with a major blow as whatever
backup they have provided is nothing for good as it has created severe
congestion in the system adding more frustration to the users,"
Chief Executive Officer of NayaTel, a newly launched private telephone
company, Wahai-us-Siraj, said.
"Pakistan is the only exceptional country in
the region which relies on only one cable," Aslam said while
lashing out at country's leadership raising doubt on their vision.
India has eight such cables to cater its
A ray of hope could be seen, however, as PTCL has
lately joined a consortium of 19 companies, which have to operate
another sub-sea cable. The 2.4 billion-dollar SEAMWE-4 would be ready
by October 2005. PTCL is negotiating for joining an overland cable
with neighbouring India. The cable is passing through Amritsar City of
While authorities were giving about five-day repair
time they were not sure about the time-frame.
"Monsoon season is there, and the ship would
take its sailing time and then it would launch a sub-sea search to
locate the fault only then it would be able to rectify it,"
Husain said. (firstname.lastname@example.org);