PEACE Cable: Pakistan's Highest Bandwidth Undersea Internet Connection to Africa and Europe

Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) is  96 Tbps (terabits per second), 15,000 km long, privately owned submarine cable that will originate in Karachi, Pakistan and run underwater all the way to Marseilles, France via multiple points in the continent of Africa.  It is being built as part of Digital Silk Road sponsored by China. Cybernet and Jazz are the local landing and global connectivity partners of PEACE Cable System in Pakistan. It will enable high-speed access to a variety of content, cloud computing, gaming and video streaming platforms.  


PEACE Undersea Cable Route. Source: Submarine Cable Networks



The laying of PEACE undersea cable in Pakistan's territorial waters will begin in March, following government approval this month for Cybernet, a local internet service provider, to construct an Arabian Sea landing station in Karachi, according to Nikkei Asia. The Mediterranean section of the cable is already being laid, and runs from Egypt to France. The 15,000 kilometer-long cable is expected to go into service later this year.   

Mobile Broadband Subscriptions & Data Growth in Pakistan


A 820-kilometer long China-Pakistan fiber optic cable has already been laid between the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan in the south and the Khunjerab Pass, China in the north  and operational since July, 2018. It is currently being extended to Karachi for connection to PEACE cable. 

Broadband Subscriptions Growth in Pakistan. Source: PTA

When completed, PEACE cable will be Pakistan's 7th highest bandwidth, lowest latency undersea connection to the global Internet system. Currently, there are 6 international submarine cable systems connecting Pakistan, including SMW3, SMW4, SMW5, IMEWE, AAE-1 and TW1. PTCL is the landing party in Pakistan for SMW3, SMW4, AAE-1 and IMEWE cable systems, operates cable landing stations in Karachi. SMW3, SMW4 and IMEWE land at Hawksbay, while AAE-1 lands at Clifton. Transworld Associates Private Limited (Transworld, or TWA) privately owns the TW1 cable system and is a member of the SMW5 consortium. Both TW1 and SMW5 land at Hawksbay and terminate at Transworld's cable landing station in Karachi.  


Pakistan has experienced a huge surge in Internet traffic during the COVID19 pandemic. Cellular Mobile Data usage in the country has soared from 2,545 petabytes in 2019 to 4,498 petabytes in 2020.  Total number of broadband subscriptions in the country has doubled from about 45 million in 2017 to 90 million in 2020,  according to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority




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Riaz Haq said…
ECNEC approves Rs 37.9bn second phase of Pak-China Optical Fiber Cable Project
* Project will pave way for establishment of cross-border OFC network along CPEC routes

https://dailytimes.com.pk/716538/ecnec-approves-rs-37-9bn-second-phase-of-pak-china-optical-fiber-cable-project/


Pakistan’s key decision-making body, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), approved Rs 37.9 billion worth Pak-China Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) Project Phase II.

According to a report published by Gwadar Pro, the project will pave the way for establishment of Cross-Border OFC Network (Khunjerab-Karachi) Along China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) routes. The project will provide alternate path for international connectivity through Northern Border of Pakistan with China and would transform Pakistan as a Digital Gateway of regional connectivity.

The Covid-19 response and other Natural Calamities Control Program was approved by the ECNEC at the cost of Rs 70 billion as federal share. The project includes National Health upgradation program, National program for Water and Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), COVID-19 interventions for less developed areas.

The ECNEC also approved the Project for “Dualization and Improvement of Old Bannu Road” at the total cost of Rs 17,230 million from federal Public Sector Development Programme (2020-21). The project envisages dualization of existing 02-lane old Bannu road measuring 83 km in length from Gaandi Chowk to Sarai Naurang (8km) and Domail to Krapa on N-55 (75-kilometre) to 4 lanes, with 7.3 metres wide carriageway on either side.

The scope of work also includes extension of existing culverts & bridges, construction of retaining walls along with drainage / erosion works and allied facilities. NHA shall execute the project. ECNEC considered and approved a summary regarding construction of Gwadar-Ratodero Road Project (M-8) sponsored by the Ministry of Communication and executed by National Highway Authority (NHA) at a rationalized cost of Rs 38,026.28 million. It also approved the project in view of its strategic importance as it will facilitate connectivity for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects through improved road linkages.

A summary was presented before ECNEC regarding provision of Advanced Skills Development through International Scholarship Phase-1 for Master and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs to be executed by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The project is part of a Prime Minister Knowledge Economy Task Force Initiative which will enable our youth to access higher education opportunities in well-reputed international universities. ECNEC approved the project at a rationalized cost of Rs. 13.361 billion.
Riaz Haq said…
Digitalisation landscape in Pakistan – a tech view

https://www.fintechfutures.com/2020/12/digitalisation-landscape-in-pakistan-a-tech-view/


Reposition and optimise branch network while providing more self-services to customers as intimidating branch environment keeps the customers off from the branches, hence to provide them with more self-service digital channels and secure banking at their fingertips.

Not to be surprised as Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, is embarking on what it calls the biggest transformation in its history, as it unveils a suite of new technology products in an aggressive drive to enter the lucrative Big Tech sector and has dropped the word “bank” from its corporate building and is now called “Sber” while replacing its tellers with super ATMs and offering online taxi and food services.

Build platforms, not just products and services
Let go of “legacy” technology and gradually move towards secure green banking adoption while providing financial services to customers anytime, anywhere and on any device. The banks are still clinging to their legacies and need a two-pronged strategy to rip-and-replace the legacy and adopt new technology and tools to thrive.

Open banking with fintech firms is the sustainable model for banks as today quite a few banks are also divesting some of their capital into other businesses. Digital platforms are the answer to such experiments while initiating new services or collaborating with other businesses.

Data as a value generator tool
Create and promote “data driven” financial services based on artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms defined with the regulatory guidelines working with structured and unstructured data to provide clear and in-depth insight of your customer from both behavioural and compliance perspective. This domain is still untapped in almost all the local banks, while only a few have embarked this journey.

Data works as fuel to the business and financial services that take the banks to the next level. This is the differentiating factor that is inhibiting the local banks from innovation as compared to peer countries who have worked hard on their data strategies and programmes and are reaping the fruit today.

Enter the cloud and managed services evolution
Using on-demand cloud computing to reduce operating costs while increase the availability to 99.XX% as many banks already have steered their staff collaboration over the cloud during COVID-19 work from home (WFH) safety measure. Investments in cloud infrastructure and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are visible in the past few years, however, more conducive regulatory guidelines are to be formulated for such ventures.

Security by design
Cybersecurity comes a part and parcel of all processes based and data driven technology. Essentially, customer do desire fast and secure financial services. Security spends will remain on the rise with the increase in the ransomware attacks. While WFH and online transactions will keep rising as per experts, the dark side of the digital and online banking will remain to be active more than ever.

The combat against phishing scams and schemes, security breaches, illegitimate transactions, has taken a paradigm shift in the banking sector as treasure trove of data is readily available to the hackers to activate their goals. Effective implementation of DDoS, intrusion, threat and malware detection tools, multi-factor authentication (MFA), restricted WiFi usage would somewhat secure.

To B or not to B
The controversies of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency have blemished the true essence and value of blockchain, hence still being subject to skepticism, carries a huge potential for non-financial transactions between the financial institutions and other stakeholders. As per Statista, the blockchain market value share of banks is 29.7% in 2020.

Riaz Haq said…
Pravin Sawhney
@PravinSawhney
·
3h
With Biden having ruled out conflict with China, QUAD has lost steam - if there was any. Except China to now given extraordinary push to Digital Silk Road in South Asia - to isolate India, strategically!

https://twitter.com/PravinSawhney/status/1358556040959197184?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
China builds 'Digital Silk Road' to bypass India for Pakistani internet traffic
PEACE cable will drastically reduce the time taken to transfer internet data

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2282931/china-builds-digital-silk-road-to-bypass-india-for-pakistani-internet-traffic

As part of the broader Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is set to lay the final stretch of a cross-border fiber optic cable in Pakistan that will create the Digital Silk Road, serving the geostrategic interests of both countries, Nikkei Asia reported.

The fiber cable will link to the Pakistan East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) submarine cable in the Arabian Sea, to service countries participating in BRI, and Europe.

The PEACE cable will provide the shortest direct internet route between participating countries and drastically reduce the time taken to transfer internet data.

The report stated that the cable is currently being laid between Rawalpindi and the port cities of Karachi and Gwadar. "The $240-million project, which is in partnership with China's Huawei Technologies, was approved by the government last week," it added.

The laying of sea cable in the country's territorial waters will begin in March, following government's approval this month to construct an Arabian Sea landing station in Karachi.

"The Mediterranean section of the cable is already being laid, and runs from Egypt to France. The 15,000 kilometre-long cable is expected to go into service later this year," it said.

Observers see this as a strategic move to circumvent international telecommunication consortiums dominated by Western and Indian companies.

The report stated that some BRI projects have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic and debt crises in partner countries, including a $6.8 billion railway project in Pakistan. "Part of Beijing's response has been to step up digital projects and the development of communications infrastructure."

The report acknowledged that in recent months, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority has accelerated efforts to improve Gwadar's connectivity with major road and rail upgrades.

Pakistan is also looking for an alternate link to the internet through China. At present, most Europe-bound internet traffic from China feeds through terrestrial cables traversing Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Pakistan is served by seven submarine cables at present, four of which come out of India, according to Telegeography, a Washington-based telecommunications market research company. These cable networks have been developed by consortiums that include telecom companies from India, Egypt and Pakistan.

The PEACE cable is expected to help reduce Pakistan's exposure to internet outages from damaged submarine cables by providing an additional route for internet connectivity.

Eyck Freymann, author of One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World, told Nikkei that the BRI is evolving to place less emphasis on traditional heavy infrastructure, and more on high-tech cooperation and digital services.

"Beijing wants to dominate the physical infrastructure underlying global communications, particularly the internet," he said. "This will give it an advantage in internationalizing its tech sector and pursuing future tech-related deals with partner countries."

The ambitious multi-trillion-dollar BRI initiative (or the new Silk Road), announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to boost connectivity and cooperation between East Asia, Europe, and East Africa. It is expected to significantly boost global trade, cutting trading costs in half for the countries involved, according to expert estimates.
Riaz Haq said…
#Africa-#China Ties 2021: “China still addresses Africa’s hunger for structural transformation in a way that the West does not....Any African country with urgent need for new roads, bridges or ports, then Chinese finance and firms are the obvious option" https://www.economist.com/the-world-ahead/2020/11/17/african-countries-will-remain-best-friends-with-china

VERY THREE years African and Chinese politicians gather at a diplomatic jamboree known as the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC). The summits, which attract more African heads of state than annual UN gatherings, are waypoints in China’s long journey on the continent. Over the past three decades it has become the pre-eminent partner for many African countries. Its importance will be apparent again in 2021 at the next FOCAC meeting, the eighth, which is due to take place in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Yet the context for this summit is different from that of the previous seven. During the Trump presidency China’s role in Africa came in for increasing American criticism. In 2020 the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, accused China of offering African countries little but “empty promises and tired platitudes”. Though the Biden administration is less likely to use provocative rhetoric, scepticism of Chinese intentions on the continent will nevertheless endure. So the coming year could prove a tricky one for African policymakers, who are already grappling with the fallout from the pandemic.

---------

China’s image in Africa was tarnished last year by the ill-treatment of African migrants in Guangzhou, a port city. That brought condemnation on social media and by African politicians. But, broadly speaking, African views of China are nuanced and resilient. Polling of 18 countries by Afrobarometer, a pan-African research group, released in September 2020, found that an average of 59% of respondents had a favourable view of China—marginally higher than of America (58%). No wonder African politicians are careful not to take sides.

Nor will they see much benefit in speaking out against China over issues such as Xinjiang, Hong Kong or Taiwan. China places great value on the 54 African countries’ votes at the UN and other international organisations. (In 1971 African votes ensured that the People’s Republic of China was admitted to the UN and that Taiwan was expelled.) It will reward those who vote with it and punish those who do not. Officials in Kenya are known to have studied China’s punitive response to Australian criticism of its human-rights records—and fear what would happen if their country did anything similar.

Even if African politicians wanted to speak out against China, few believe Western governments would support them if they did. “The West is unwilling to underwrite the cost of antagonising China,” says W. Gyude Moore, a former cabinet minister in Liberia, now at the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank. “The continent is best served by charting its own course.”
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s Mobile Broadband subscribers cross 100mn mark....mobile broadband is provided over 3G/4G networks with an average download speed of 17.7 Mbps and upload speed of 11.3 Mbps (mobile) which is above the speed levels in other regional countries.

https://www.brecorder.com/news/40080636


As per the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the achievement comes on the back of government policies, effective competition among telecom operators.

PTA stated that in 2012, there were less than 2 million subscriptions but after the introduction of 3G services, the figure jumped to 16 million in 2014 and 100 million in 2021. The telecom regulator informed that presently 87 percent of the country's population has access to internet/broadband services at one of the lowest rates in the region.

It informed that broadband is provided over 3G/4G networks with an average download speed of 17.7 Mbps and upload speed of 11.3 Mbps (mobile) which is above the speed levels in other regional countries.

It was learned that mobile data prices declined to only 0.70pc of the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita which is well below the UN Broadband Commission’s recommendation of less than 2pc.

PTA said that all four national Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs), SCO, and fixed-line broadband operators including PTCL collectively have broadband subscriptions of over 100 million.

Back in 2010, the Pakistan telecom sector reached 100 million mobile subscriptions, it launched the first-ever biometrically verified SIMs across the country in 2009 and implemented the world’s first open-source DIRBS in 2019.


Riaz Haq said…
India has the highest percentage of smartphone users, at 69 percent, followed by Sri Lanka with 60 percent, Nepal 53 percent and Pakistan 51 percent.

https://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/news/bangladesh-behind-nepal-pakistan-smartphone-use-2069457


The report was unveiled at a virtual roundtable organised jointly by GSMA (Groupe Spécial Mobile Association) and the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB).

The report, titled "Achieving mobile-enabled digital inclusion in Bangladesh", said 4G network now covered 95 per cent of the population. Yet, there was still a significant usage gap of 67 per cent as only 28 per cent of the population had 4G connections.

"This suggests a lag between 4G coverage rollout and usage of 4G services. This lag in usage is largely explained by issues related to the affordability of devices, low levels of knowledge and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, as well as safety and security concerns."


High sector-specific taxes, a fragmented licensing regime, as well as issues with the pricing and usage restrictions on spectrum have been identified as barriers to expanding coverage.

Bangladesh, however, fares better compared to Nepal and Sri Lanka in terms of 4G connections. Only 17 per cent of the population has 4G connections in Nepal, and 18 per cent in Sri Lanka, according to the report.

India has the highest 4G connections at 63 percent of the population followed by Pakistan.

Bangladesh has 17 crore mobile connections. Of them, nine crore are unique subscribers, giving a penetration rate of 54 percent as of December 2020.

Some 47 percent of subscribers use 2G connections and 25 per cent 3G connections.

The report said internet and digital technology played a key role in helping drive economic growth and societal development in Bangladesh.

Digital technologies, mobile in particular, will be crucial to implementing the government's 2041 Perspective Plan, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and recovering economically in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the report said.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan to experience a boost in Internet speeds as IT Ministry approves 9 Fiber Optic projects

https://www.techjuice.pk/pakistan-to-experience-a-boost-in-internet-speeds-as-it-ministry-approves-9-fiber-optic-projects/


The Ministry of Information Technology has approved Rs. 8 billion to complete 9 fibre-optic broadband projects that will boost internet speeds and make the Internet accessible to the masses. After a meeting between the Universal service fund’s board of directors, the announcement came by the IT Ministry. The Information Technology minister, Syed Amin ul Haq had directed the projects’ approval to materialise the Digital Pakistan vision, the announcement adds.

People living in remote areas often experience poor internet speeds and experience considerable hardships to improve internet signals due to a lack of Internet network infrastructure. However, measures are underway to bring such areas at par with the rest of Pakistan, including tourist destinations such as Babusar Top, Swat, Karakoram highway and Galyat, where faster internet will become possible through broadband services.

The project will involve laying fibre optic cables and providing broadband services in all 4 provinces, benefiting some 7.5 million people living areas stretching 40,000 km. Approvals were also granted to initiate projects that will ensure 24/7 mobile phone services and broadband on an emergency basis in the Northern areas to promote tourism.

Ensuring faster internet access at a national level and enabling access to telecom/internet technologies through consistent infrastructure investment is a key cornerstone of the larger Digital Pakistan vision. Prime Minister Imran Khan formally announced and inaugurated the Digital Pakistan initiative in 2019 to set the country in the direction of the much needed and awaited tech-enabled future. A task force was also formed to achieve the defined targets named Strategic Reform and Implementation Unit (SRIU).

Riaz Haq said…
#China completes work on $1.7 billion project to transform #Pakistan’s dysfunctional national grid. The 878km, 660kV DC, #Matiari–#Lahore transmission line will provide the national grid with a new backbone. 1300 #Chinese & 650 #Pakistanis worked on it. https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/sectors/china-completes-work-17bn-project-transform-pakist/


A $1.7bn electricity transmission line on the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which was begun in December 2018, was inaugurated in a ceremony held in Islamabad and Beijing at the end of last month.
The 660kV Matiari–Lahore high-voltage direct current line will provide Pakistan’s national grid with a new backbone and improve chronic problems with the country’s energy transmission and distribution grids.

The 878km line was financed and built by the State Grid Corporation of China, which will operate it for the next 25 years.

More than 1,300 Chinese and 6,500 Pakistani workers were employed on the scheme.

Hammad Azhar, Pakistan’s energy minister, said the project would bring stability to the country’s power system. Speaking at the online ceremony, he said the project would “enhance transmission capability and bring relief to consumers”.

Electricity generation in Pakistan has increased dramatically in recent years, thanks to the large-scale construction of mainly coal-fired plants funded by China.

As a result the country has an installed capacity of around 37GW and peak demand of only 25GW, although this is growing at a rate of about 5% a year. However the grid is able to handle only 22GW of power, resulting in chronic blackouts and load shedding, particularly in the summer when demand is highest.

However, problems occur in winter as well. In January of this year, the entire country suffered a blackout after a fault at a power station in southeast Sindh province caused the grid to lose its 50Hz frequency, which caused power stations throughout the country to close down.

This makes the reinforcement of the grid, arguably, the single most important infrastructure scheme for the country’s socio-economic development.

Zhang Jianhua, head of China’s National Energy Administration, told those present at the ceremony that the Matiari-Lahore line was the first large-scale transmission project of the CPEC, and would provide “solid assurance” for power transmission in the south and power supply in the north.

Speaking about the economic corridor in general, Azhar added: “The CPEC is of utmost importance for Pakistan. It will enable the country to enhance industrial production, upgrade energy and communication infrastructure and improve connectivity within the region.”

Of Pakistan’s 207 million people, roughly 58 million lacked access to grid electricity in 2018, including 46% of the rural population.
Riaz Haq said…
Google's and Kantar's"Journey to Digital" report on Pakistan

https://www.geo.tv/latest/362818-google-research-highlights-digital-revolution-overtaking-pakistan

https://youtu.be/7mlSvA7MyWo

The two-stage study interviewed 4,135 Pakistanis aged between 15-55 in both urban and rural areas.
The study found that 76% of Pakistanis are connected to the internet in the top three cities of the country.
The study further shows 46% of all Pakistanis access the internet every day.

Pakistan is witnessing a digital revolution and most of the citizens are ready to embrace it as more than half the population of the country access internet on daily basis, a study has revealed.

Google and Kantar shared new research “Journey to Digital” about the digital population in Pakistan. The two-stage study interviewed 4,135 Pakistanis aged between 15-55 in both urban and rural areas.

The study found that 76% of Pakistanis are connected to the internet in the top three cities of the country (Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi / Islamabad).

Overall, 66% of internet users are based in urban areas while 47% are based in rural areas. The study further showed that 46% of all Pakistanis access the internet every day.

According to the study, young males are early adopters, who access the internet more than any other group. They are also keener to try new things and need the internet for education and work.

Internet usage surged due to COVID-19, finds the study, as, before the lockdown, 79% of internet users in urban locations accessed the internet daily, which increased by 10% since lockdowns were imposed.

Google Search and YouTube are most popular in Pakistan, said the study. YouTube, used by nearly 90% of all internet users, is the most popular app in Pakistan for streaming music and watching video/TV, and 38% of Pakistan's internet users go to YouTube in the research phase of their shopping journey.

The study also says that one-third of all internet users in Pakistan have made a purchase online and one-fourth of these shoppers have increased their spending during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Pakistan is a witness to the e-commerce boom as 71% of Pakistani shoppers find purchasing products or services online easy, while 66% find it convenient. Another 54% agree that online shopping websites or apps give personalised product recommendations, which is a common question from shoppers.

However, 66% of consumers believe that online shopping is the way forward, and two-thirds of Pakistan online shoppers believe that they will buy products or services online after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google explained, “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online! This is the first time Google and Kantar released a study to understand more about Pakistan’s internet population. But it’s not only about people getting online, this research has uncovered new insights and behaviours that show how COVID is impacting online behaviour and the digital opportunities waiting to be unlocked.”

"More people are coming online in Pakistan, creating a great opportunity for eCommerce businesses - if they are ready to seize it. As we see more exploration of the internet beyond social, e-retailers can capture natural cross-category purchasing on its rise, but only if they have first established themselves and their product offering in an online marketplace," he said.

Trust is also crucial, so helping customers gain confidence by showing them how easy, convenient and personal the e-shopping experience will be critical to continuing the upward rise of eCommerce in Pakistan, Leah Westwood, Client Manager at Kantar added.



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