Internet customers in Pakistan on Saturday faced severe internet disruption, following outage in international submarine cable systems IMEWE, providing internet bandwidth to Pakistan.
The IMEWE cable went down earlier Saturday due to a cable cut near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, said telecom sector sources. With the latest outage, at least three submarine cables, connecting Pakistan with rest of the world have gone offline due to the fault.
IMEWE submarine cable carries significant amount of Pakistani bandwidth and its down-time is going to hit local ISPs with very serious challenges. Spokesperson Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Khurram Mehran told Business Recorder that currently an outage on IMEWE has been observed due to cable cut near Jeddah. Customers may experience slow browsing; however, concerned teams are working for arrangement of alternate bandwidth.
Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) informed the public that another international cable system SEA-ME-WE 4 is already under repair by the international consortium. The international consortium is working to resolve international submarine outage issue. The PTCL has undertaken measures to arrange additional/alternate bandwidth through other cable systems and international cable business partners. The customers will face slow internet browsing, it added.
Chief Business Development Officer PTCL Sikandar Naqi said that the international consortium managing the submarine cable system has already started working to resolve the situation as early as possible. In order to minimise the service impact, the PTCL has undertaken necessary measures to arrange additional/alternate bandwidth through its other cable systems and international cable business partners.
While SEAMEWE 4 and TW1 submarine cables have already been offline since last month due to faults of similar nature. They are yet to be repaired. With latest fault in IMEWE, Pakistan’s majority of backhaul bandwidth went unavailable and all sorts of internet in the country are currently operating under severe capacity. The entire country is currently relying on SEMEWE 3, SEAMEWE 5 and AAE1 submarine cables, out of which SEAMEWE3 operates with very limited capacity.
The remaining two submarine cables (SEAMEWE5 and AAE1) went into operations very recently and Pakistan could very well go into dark, if both of these cables were not operational at this point in time.
Pakistan with its geo-strategic position has the lowest number of connectivity with undersea cables in the region, thus placing it at a disadvantage in regional telecom markets.
The documents of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) revealed that currently there are 6 submarine cables connecting two landing stations in Pakistan, namely SEA-ME-WE 3, SEA-ME-WE 4, SEA-ME-WE 5, I-ME-WE, AAE-I and Transworld-1. India has 17, Singapore 23, Malaysia 20, Thailand 10, Taiwan 11 and Japan has 20 undersea cables.
In a span of over 14 years, only 5 additional undersea cables could be connected to Pakistan. It was expected that with deregulation of LDI sector, the number of undersea cables would increase reasonably to meet the ever increasing demand of data services and provide redundancy and provision of cross-country connectivity to neighbouring countries. However, Multinet is the only LDI operator which is in the process of establishing SRG-I at Gwadar.
With the announcement of Telecom Policy 2015, the PTA as a sector regulator is entrusted with successful implementation of the tasks specified under broad objectives and definite targets. Under the policy, current licensing regime will continue to apply. However, PTA will conduct assessment of market absorption capacity and any new licensing in long distance & international (LDI) will be subject to such assessment.
The PTA says that over the years, the performance of LDI sector could not meet the desired expectations in terms of development of necessary infrastructure. However, the strength of the sector cannot be undermined as it holds number of opportunities for existing as well as potential LDI operators. Therefore, PTA is of the view that further licensing may bring investments for establishment of OFC network, undersea cables and cross-boarder connectivity.