PEACE Cable: Pakistan's Tenth High Bandwidth Submarine Cable Ready to Go Live
Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) cable, a 96 TBPS (terabits per second), 15,000 km long submarine cable, is now ready for service. This brings to 10 the total number of submarine cables currently connecting or planned to connect Pakistan with the world: TransWorld1, Africa1 (2023), 2Africa (2023), AAE1, PEACE, SeaMeWe3, SeaMeWe4, SeaMeWe5, SeaMeWe6 (2025) and IMEWE. PEACE cable has two landing stations in Pakistan: Karachi and Gwadar. SeaMeWe stands for Southeast Asia Middle East Western Europe, while IMEWE is India Middle East Western Europe and AAE1 Asia Africa Europe 1.
|PEACE Cable. Source: Cybernet|
PEACE is a privately owned submarine cable that originates in Karachi, Pakistan and runs underwater all the way to Marseilles, France via multiple points in the continent of Africa. It is being built as part of the Digital Silk Road sponsored by China. Cybernet is the local landing and global connectivity partner of PEACE Cable System in Pakistan. It is designed to enable high-speed access to a variety of content, cloud computing, gaming and video streaming platforms.
|Map of Submarine Cable Connections to Karachi, Pakistan. Source: TeleGeography|
The PEACE Pakistan-Egypt segment connects Karachi, Pakistan and Zafarana, Egypt, spanning a total length of 5,800 km. The landings of Karachi and Zafarana were completed in March and December 2021 respectively, according to a press release of PEACE Cable International Network Co., Ltd. In addition, the Mediterranean segment of PEACE linking Marseille, France, to Abu Talat, Egypt, a 3,200km long project, has also achieved RFS in March 2022. Therefore, the route from Pakistan to France of the PEACE cable system is now fully constructed and ready for use.
|Telecom Services Subscriptions in Pakistan as of June, 2022. Source: PTA|
|Per User Data Demand Growth. Source: Pakistan Telecom Authority|
|Pakistan Per Subscriber Per Month Data Use|
|Worldwide Mobile Data Use Per Subscriber Per Month. Source: Statista|
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Over the last month, Pakistan’s internet services have been continuously experiencing small and large issues. Major internet service providers such as PTCL, Cybernet and Ufone just last week experienced a nationwide breakdown because of a fiber cable breakage. These constant internet problems and interruptions have been causing a lot of damage to Pakistan’s IT-dependent sectors, which have been filing complaints ever since the beginning of this bad internet fiasco.
Internet service providers after receiving tons of complaints announced that these internet problems are caused by constant flooding in areas such as the Sukkur division, where important internet fiber cables are located. With flood water still present in the areas, there is no way internet cables can be fixed quickly.
Upon investigating the matter, PTA has found out that the main reason behind the damage to the internet cable is the trenches that local villagers have dug throughout the Sukkur division. These trenches were dug by the locals to prevent flood water from entering their villages. On the other hand, PTCL believes that these cable damages have been caused by the heavy machinery being used to drain flood water from affected areas.
Claims from both the authorities have cleared the picture and have proved that the internet problems were caused by floods and that it wasn’t a cyberattack from an enemy country and certainly not from the infamous cable-eating sea shark.
According to a report by PTCL, internet fiber cables placed in Ghotki, Khairpur and Sukkur districts are severely affected whereas the most damage has occurred in the tehsil Ranipur of Khairpur district.
But is this the end to this internet damage? Sadly, no, according to Minister for IT and Telecom Syed Aminul Haque, the damages caused to internet cables are pretty serious and with heavy rainfalls, the damage can only be expected to increase.
“Due to extensive flooding, most of the pathways of underground cables have been submerged, as relief workers or locals were trying to divert floodwater by digging trenches on roads and footpaths. The ministry has directed PTCL to declare an emergency so that repair work could be initiated when any such incident is reported in the system, while the PTA is constantly monitoring the quality of service” said the minister.
According to an IT ministry representative, cable damages are normal in conditions like these, but things can get bad when optic-fiber cables get hit. He also added that while these damages have caused internet problems in most parts of the country, cities in the south of Sindh such as Karachi, Hyderabad, and Gwadar still have good internet.
The Atlantic Council is a nonpartisan organization that promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs and helps shape policy choices and strategies to create a more free, secure, and prosperous world.
The discussed brief explores a yet unchartered future pathway for Pakistan for the country to unlock the potential of its geo-strategic location, to connect landlocked Central Asia, the natural resources of the Middle East, and the markets of China and India.
Drawing a parallel to Turkey, which has successfully capitalized on its location through the development of its infrastructure, Ambassador Siddiqui built a strong case for Pakistan's economic growth and regional economic security. During the talk, he emphasized the need to rapidly deliver on developing connectivity infrastructure to drive shared prosperity and growth across the region.
The paper details the accelerated development of Gas, Electricity, Road, Rail, and Fiber Optic connections in the last decade and proposes that current infrastructure combined with planned developments must be synced to actualize Pakistan's potential as a regional connector. Ambassador Siddiqui believes that "realizing this potential within the next decade is entirely possible." As the country develops into the next great connector, regional governments and the private sector will not just have the opportunity to participate in this growth but also bind its destiny towards a shared and prosperous future. The paper highlights that many opportunities are already attracting the interest of regional players who stand to benefit directly and must also be explored by investors who stand to be rewarded in a manner similar to Turkey.
Muhammad Azfar Ahsan believes that "Pakistan's location is its core strength and will determine its rise as the most influential of energy corridors for regional prosperity. It will also directly impact and improve Pakistan's prosperity, stability, and security."
The Brief was originally launched and promoted ahead of the Global Energy Forum being hosted by the Atlantic Council at the Dubai Expo, in conjunction with the World Government Summit in March 2022. The launch of this Issue Brief successfully placed Pakistan at the forefront of constructive international dialogue and now the national discourse.
To read the full issue brief: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/issue-brief/pakistan-the-next-great-infrastructure-connector/
By Ali Jehangir Siddiqui
Pakistan sits at the crossroads of the abundant resources of Central Asia and the Middle East, and the lucrative markets of China and India. It therefore has the potential to play a significant connecting role, one that enables broader regional interdependency while boosting domestic economic prospects. Several projects in infrastructure and energy in recent years have already laid the groundwork for this transformation.
But more can be done. Pakistan’s network, though rapidly advancing, is not yet ready to take on these responsibilities. However, there are considerable opportunities; from energy transportation and roadbuilding to digital connectivity and rail access, if Pakistan pursues significant infrastructure improvements, it has a chance to assume the mantle of the region’s great connector.
China’s Hunan Sunwalk Group said on Monday that it will spend several billion dollars on Pakistan’s Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities to establish telecom infrastructure and fiber industry. According to Sunwalk Investments’ chief business officer, Afshan Amin, the nation’s broadband adoption will be increased for the digital revolution, which will benefit not only the business-to-business sector but also the government, enterprise firms, and end consumers.
Founded in 2000, Hunan Sunwalk Group is a multibillion-dollar, well-known Chinese company engaged in the construction of telecommunications infrastructure. Amin said that Sunwalk Group intends to concentrate on optic fiber and backhaul connection in Pakistan due to anticipated data digital demand and the incorporation of impending 5th-generation mobile technologies.
Previously, Sunwalk Group CEO Pakistan Mr. Lan held a meeting with the Federal Minister of IT and Telecom, Syed Amin ul Haque. Mr. Lan informed the Federal Minister for IT regarding investment plans for establishing a statewide Optical fiber network and facilitating the growth of broadband in Pakistan.
Mr. Lan stated that his organization is prepared to invest approximately $2 billion over the next 8 to 10 years.
Federal Minister for IT Syed Amin Ul Haque thanked and commended the SUN WALK group for their interest in the Pakistani market, and he pledged his full support for the group’s endeavors.
The ‘One Network’ is an advanced communication project, under which 3,000 kilometres of underground fibre optic cable is being laid along the motorways across Pakistan. After the completion of the project, it would meet Pakistan's telecommunication requirements.
According to the One Network chief operating officer (COO), 2,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable haf been laid under the motorways communication infrastructure. People traveling on the motorways would get relief from the rush situations. It would also eliminate cash payments at toll plazas.
The system would also be linked to the motorway police to keep check on any violation of the traffic rules, such as wearing of seat belt and the speed limit. Besides, in case of emergency, people would get timely recovery or rescue assistance.
The ‘One Network’ covers M1 to M16 Motorways in Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Pindi Bhattian, Multan, Sukkur, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sialkot, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat and Hazara, besides the Lahore Ring Road and Lahore-Faisalabad route.
The FWO is also conducting six diploma courses. According to the principal of this project, Col (retd) Atif, about 45 short courses of three to six months of duration were also offered. The graduated from here were associated with technical fields in Pakistan and other countries.
The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is likely to launch 5G technology next year in the country to cope with the challenges of the digital world. The official of ministry of IT and telecommunication said that the provision of broadband services across the country was the topmost priority of the ministry of IT. He said that the ministry of IT through the Universal Service Fund (USF) had launched some 70 projects of optical fiber cable (OFC) and broadband infrastructure development in four provinces at a cost of Rs 65 billion. “All projects are underway in far-flung areas would be completed by June next year,” he added. “In the province of Sindh alone, 20 projects of NGBSD and OFC worth Rs16.3 billion have been started so far in 20 districts, including Tharparkar, Nawabshah, Khairpur, Larkana, Badin, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Mirpurkhas, and Dadu,” the official said. He said that projects of connectivity of the un-served and underserved communities of Balochistan, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces had also been launched. He said, through USF aimed to connect all the citizens of the country as digitalisation had become a priority for businesses and communities. Under its Next Generation Optic Fiber (NG-OF) Network and Services programme, USF had contracted over 16,000km of Optic Fiber Cable (OFC) to benefit 31.5 million populations across the country.
A new ultra-low latency long-haul fiber network is being deployed jointly by One Network, the largest ICT and Intelligent Traffic and Electronic Tolling System operator in Pakistan, and Cybernet, a leading fiber broadband provider. The network will span the entire length of the country and provide much-needed capacity and redundancy to the communications, internet, and media infrastructure in numerous cities, towns, and districts.
The first phase of the project, which includes 1,800 km of fiber network along motorways and road sections linking Karachi to Hyderabad (M-9 Motorway), Multan to Sukkur (M-5 Motorway), Abdul Hakeem to Lahore (M-3 Motorway), Swat Expressway (M-16), Lahore to Islamabad (M-2 Motorway) and separately from Lahore to Sialkot (M-11 Motorway), Gujranwala, Daska and Wazirabad have been deployed.
Both partners are now moving expeditiously to install and test a multi-terabit transport network and attain ready-for-service (RFS).
The second phase which includes Hyderabad to Sukkur, Multan to Pindi Bhattian (M-4 Motorway), Hazara Expressway (E-35), Hakla to D.I.Khan (M-14 Motorway), and Islamabad to Peshawar (M-1 Motorway) has commenced and is expected to go live by Q1 2023.
Based on learnings from disruptions due to infrastructure damages in recent floods, the project has implemented extra measures to withstand natural calamities. All critical components including optical networking equipment, distribution networks, and power systems are deployed in such a manner that they continue to function in a range of disaster scenarios. Furthermore, the network is being enhanced through multiple rings, and swap arrangements with other network providers to provide an unprecedented level of reliability.
Asif Siddique, CEO of One Network, said: “This national long-haul project is the backbone to enable One Network to deploy state-of-the-art platforms for electronic toll collection (ETC) and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) for our National Motorways – the economic backbone of our country. Built along the national motorways, the fiber transmission network will provide a robust information highway linking many Pakistani cities, towns, and districts. The infrastructure has been built, and will be maintained, by keeping in mind the capacity and communication needs for our nation and its citizens for the next 25 years”. The infrastructure shall also be available for all cellular mobile operators to provide quality of service to their 3G/4G subscribers along the motorway routes. “We are building safe and reliable long-haul fiber infrastructure with an aim to contribute to improving quality of service and digitalization efforts of the government of Pakistan,” added Mr. Asif Siddique.
Danish A. Lakhani, CEO of Cybernet, said, “Our goal is to provide a high-capacity fiber network that continues to function in critical times. With careful planning of the fiber plant including ring-based protection and regular, proactive maintenance we aim to construct a robust national fiber backbone for use by everyone – but one which will be owned and managed by local Pakistanis. Such a backbone will not only serve the people, businesses, and institutions of Pakistan but also meet the needs of international customers who require high-capacity, cross-border connectivity.”
The new long-haul network will also provide tremendous benefit to Cybernet’s own broadband service (StormFiber) by enabling the company to provide multi-terabit transmission uplink to its broadband access network.
“This transmission network will enable us to further our mission of transforming the Pakistani economy by bringing gigabit fiber broadband service –at an affordable price— to households and businesses in every major city of Pakistan. We are on track to roll out our FTTH-based triple play service to the 25th city in Pakistan by the end of the year”, added Lakhani.
ISLAMABAD: The Starlink Internet Services has yet to satisfy the Pakistan Tele-communication Authority (PTA) and other stakeholders over its technical plan—being evaluated for the launch of services in the country, official sources revealed to Business Recorder.
According to official documents of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and the PTA, the technical plan submitted by Starlink is under evaluation by relevant stakeholders. The Government of Pakistan is in consultation with all stakeholders including SUPARCO, LEAs, PTA, and FAB to analyse the Starlink technical and business plan, as regional and various international countries are taking cautious approach to allow or deny Starlink due to respective satellite regimes as well as security aspects.
The documents further revealed that security clearance of Starlink and related technical vulnerabilities assessment especially its data hosting outside the country and utilization of laser technology from satellite to satellite without using Earth Gateways is being analyzed by Law Enforcement Agency. Further action of granting licence or otherwise will be taken by the PTA after clearance from all stakeholders.
In accordance with existing regulatory provisions, Long Distance and International (LD1) and Local Loop (LL) licencees of PTA are allowed to provide satellite-based telecommunication services in respective licenced region(s). Starlink Internet Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd (Starlink) which is owned by Starlink Holdings Netherlands BV, applied for LDI licence for Pakistan on 24th February 2022 along with 14 x LL licence for all Telecom Regions of Pakistan on 29th April 2022.
All stakeholders were intimated and Starlink case is being analysed from technical perspective on non-exclusive, non-interference, and non-protection basis.
Starlink Internet Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd (Starlink) approached Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to permit Starlink (SpaceX) to operate in Pakistan. Traditional satellites are operating in Pakistan in Geo Stationary Orbit (GSO) (at an altitude of 36000 kms). However, Starlink differs from GSO technically, as it operates in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude between 250 to 500 kms, thus, provides low latency connectivity.
Starlink/SpaceX satellites can also communicate with many Ground Stations at a time and conversely, one ground station can connect to many starlink satellites. Satellite-to-satellite connectivity also exists through laser technology to effectively expand footprint in all areas.
Internet bandwidth is normally accessed from ground station within the country, where services are extended through starlink thus, optical fiber cable bandwidth is up/down linked through space stations and internet services are provided to the end user in the country.
The PTA officials on Monday also briefed the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication on the Starlink issue which met under the chairmanship of Senator Kauda Babar.
Officials said that this technology is still in its early stages and further progress could not be made due to some security concerns. Senator Afnanullah Khan said it was an excellent technology for providing internet services in remote areas and it was not appropriate to forego it just because of security concerns.
Chairman Committee, Senator Kauda Babar, formed a sub-committee to settle the matter and bring it to a logical end. The Sub-committee will sit with all the stakeholders and resolve the issues.
The officials revealed that SpaceX’s Starlink currently uses beta version which is not fully secured. The committee was informed that the technology was reportedly used in a drone attack in Ukraine while it was also reported in Afghanistan as well. The committee constituted a sub-committee to look into the matter and report back to it.
ISLAMABAD-With digital growth going through a rapid evolution, Pakistan is inching towards establishing a vibrant network of state-of-the-art Information Technology (IT) parks aimed at providing young professionals a launching pad to execute their innovative ideas and contribute to the national economy efficiently.
The software technology parks would not only generate employment opportunities for IT professionals but also attract millions of dollars in precious foreign exchange, boost the IT industry, and increase exports, once they are completed and become fully operational.
Currently, work on establishing the IT parks in Karachi at the cost of Rs. 41 billion and Islamabad at the cost of Rs 13.72 billion is underway. Experts believe that after their completion, they would provide job opportunities to around 35,000 IT professionals collectively.
Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said the Karachi IT Park would be a gateway for an innovative future and strengthen the economy. “Karachi IT Park is the largest IT project of its kind in Pakistan, which will benefit not only the citizens of Karachi but also the IT professionals and companies of Sindh and the rest of Pakistan,” he added.
Jazz and Huawei have commercially deployed FDD (Frequency Division Duplexing) Massive MIMO (Multiple Input and Multiple Output) solution based on 5G technology in a large scale. The solution has been developed and tailored to the needs of boosting network capacity and user experience.
This customized solution has been the first launch of Jazz and Huawei, supporting Jazz leap into the 4.9G domain. This innovative solution has tremendously enhanced the network capacities along with superior 4G experience for the valued subscribers. The average network traffic increased by around 30% and the average single user speed increased by around 170%.
Jazz’s Chief Technology Officer, Khalid Shehzad said, “We see that our customers are increasingly using high-bandwidth applications which resultantly puts pressure on existing network capabilities. Massive MIMO essentially allows us the freedom to provide more data at greater speeds, enabling our customers to use the enhanced services on their existing 4G devices. Network speeds will be faster than ever, which will significantly improve the end-user experience. Jazz is committed to developing an ecosystem that supports the government’s Digital Pakistan vision and the evolving technology needs of individuals and businesses.”
Huawei provides the industry's unique intelligent beam scheduling and intelligent beamforming technology which are native for 5G. Massive MIMO improves the capability of the handsets to transmit more efficiently. Currently Huawei FDD Massive MIMO has been deployed in more than 70 networks and over 20,000 units have been shipped. The level of collaboration between Jazz and Huawei goes beyond to more domains. For example, the first 400G transmission, the first core network cloudification, the first large-scale commercial use of VoLTE, and the first 3G sunset city. In Pakistan, Jazz maintains a leading position in network performance and innovations, and it leads the development of the entire ICT industry.
China's Sunwalk Group intends to invest USD 2 billion in Cash-Strapped Pakistan's telecom sector for the deployment of an optical fiber network, Business Recorder reported.
The deployment of an optical fiber network will cover an area of 100,000 km over a period of time in Pakistan.
A high-level delegation of the Sunwalk Group led by chairman HOU called on Pakistan's Minister for IT and Telecom Syed Aminul Haque on Tuesday.
The meeting discussed about investment in telecom infrastructure, optical fiber cable (OFC), and right of way (RoW).
Sunwalk (Pvt) Ltd, is a telecom and technology-based multinational private Chinese enterprise that has developed multiple telecoms, and communication infrastructure projects in China and has acquired the TIP License in Pakistan, reported Business Recorder.
The company started deployment and invested about USD 5 million and has the plan to deploy 5,000 km OFC as the next step, according to Business Recorder.
The newly formed OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV will bring high-speed satellite connectivity to NEOM, Saudi Arabia, the wider Middle East and neighbouring countries including Pakistan.
The OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV has exclusive rights to distribute OneWeb services in these regions for seven years, and is expected to commence operations in 2023.
The OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV is looking to transform businesses and communities, stimulating enterprise across the region, with gateways and Points of Presence (POPs) in the Middle East providing security, speed and low latency data to sectors such as finance and retail, as well as schools and hospitals.
The JV says it will offer a seamless solution to infrastructural hurdles in Pakistan, where mobile operators and local loop operators will be able to leverage the service to expand their coverage areas, offering dependable low-cost internet access.
Matthew Johnson, Interim CEO of the OneWeb/NEOM Tech & Digital JV, said: “LEO satellites not only mean we can reach absolutely everyone everywhere, but with reliable and rapid speeds – connectivity at 100 megabits per second and more without the need for techniques such as trenching or placement of 5G equipment and fiber optics. This partnership with REDtone highlights how this technology presents an incredible growth opportunity for the wider region.”
The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board has approved the award of 10 contracts worth approximately Rs. 21 billion for the unserved and under-served communities of Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The high-speed mobile broadband projects, highways and motorways projects, and optical fiber cable projects will provide 4G LTE connectivity and backhaul connectivity to around 3.5 million people by connecting 187 Union Councils (UCs) with 1,554 kilometers (kms) of optical fiber cable and provide seamless connectivity to 622 km of unserved road segments on M-8 motorway and N-35 highway.
Additional Secretary (Incharge) IT & Telecommunication and Chairman USF Board Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna chaired the 83rd Board of Directors meeting of USF on Thursday.
While addressing the meeting, Chandna said that USF has delivered a record productive performance in the past 4 years by contracting 79 projects worth approximately Rs. 62.7 billion in subsidy. This is a testament to our absolute commitment to improving the lives and livelihoods of the unserved and underserved communities of Pakistan.
He also highlighted the importance of infrastructure, affordability, and accessibility of the internet and pledged to work with all stakeholders to achieve the vision of Digital Pakistan.
USF Chief Executive Officer Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary apprised the Board members of the progress of the current projects and the restoration of the flood-affected USF network. He said that these projects will empower around 3.3 million people living in far-flung and backward areas across Pakistan, enabling them to access e-services across various spheres, ranging from financial services like banking and loans to accessibility towards various government services and benefits.
According to the details, the Board approved the award of 5 high-speed mobile broadband contracts worth approximately Rs. 7.1 billion for providing 4G LTE services in the rural and remote districts of Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan. These projects will benefit people living in 262 unserved muazas of Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, Multan, and Rajanpur districts in Punjab, Jamshoro in Sindh, and Barkhan, Musakhel, Sherani, and Sibi in Balochistan covering an approximate unserved area of 12,784.91 sq. km.
Furthermore, the Board also approved the award of two high-speed mobile broadband projects for National Highways and Motorways worth Rs. 6 billion for providing 4G LTE services to commuters on unserved road segments of 622.68 km on M-8 motorway and N-35 highway respectively.
Similarly, the USF Board also approved the award of three optical fiber cable projects worth approximately Rs. 7.7 billion for providing backhaul connectivity to 187 Union Councils (UCs) of Punjab and KP. Under these projects, USF will deploy a total of 1,554 km of optical fiber cable that will benefit over 3.3 million people in the districts of Attock, Sheikhupura, and Nankana Sahib in Punjab and Bannu and Lakki Marwat in KP. These projects are designed to connect 684 educational institutions, 223 government offices, and 268 health institutions along with mandatory connectivity of 408 BTS towers.