KARACHI: In a move that will strengthen the country’s internet backbone connectivity, Transworld Associates (Private) Limited (TWA) has joined a consortium of leading telecom companies to build and operate the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe (SEA-ME-WE)-5 submarine cable network.
TWA will own the Pakistan landing of SEA-ME-WE-5, which will be ready for service by mid-2016, the company said in a statement last week.
“It’s a good development and will improve our strategic positioning in the world of IT and telecommunications,” Wahajus Siraj of the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (Ispak) told The Express Tribune.
“The new submarine cable will provide more resilience to Pakistan’s internet backbone connectivity,” Siraj said.
Pakistan is connected with the cyber world through four undersea fibre optic cables. These include India-Middle East-Western Europe (I-ME-WE), SEA-ME-WE-3 and SEA-ME-WE-4, which are owned by Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) and TWA-1, which is owned by TWA. The new fibre optic will be the fifth undersea cable to connect Pakistan with the rest of the world.
TWA and PTCL act as the internet gateway to Pakistan and provide bandwidth to local internet service providers.
The new submarine cable will deliver ultra-broadband capacity and faster access to consumers and businesses. Its ultimate design capacity of 24 terabit per second will be used to serve the countries along its route, TWA said.
Once operational, the cable will provide the country with an additional capacity in case of breakdown in any of the existing cables, something that happened in 2013.
In March 2013, internet speed across Pakistan plummeted nearly 60% when SEA-ME-WE-4 was damaged in the Arabian Sea near Karachi and that, too, only two weeks after I-ME-WE fibre optic cable was broken down. These back-to-back breakdowns left the entire internet traffic on the remaining two cables – SEA-ME-WE-3 and TW1, causing congestion.
With two of the four undersea cables that connect Pakistan with the internet out of service, the country faced a massive reduction in internet speed. Shortly after the disruption, internet users faced a host of problems ranging from intermittent to slow connectivity. Many had complained about a significant decrease in their browsing speed.
With the addition of SEA-ME-WE-5, the country will be better equipped to deal with similar breakdowns in the future, according to experts. The new cable will come with approximately six times Pakistan’s current capacity, says IT and telecom blog, Propakistani.pk.
Moreover, the undersea cable will also benefit retailers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), by offering an alternative to the market leader PTCL. “It [SEA-ME-WE-5] also provides an alternative route to the operators by balancing out PTCL’s dominance in the market,” Siraj said.
Spread across 20,000 kilometres, the new cable system will connect Singapore to Europe (Italy and France) and traverse Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Oman, UAE, Yemen, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia, according to TWA.
“We will be able to deliver resilient and redundant network solutions with several advantages, such as flexibility and reliability for our customers as the system will offer an increased service experience,” TWA President Kamran Malik said.
Appreciating Islamabad’s pro-investment programmes and policies for the ICT sector, Malik said, “This investment by TWA is a result of positive and goal-oriented policies, which will enhance socio-economic development and spur economic growth via a more connected Pakistan.”
The writer is a staff correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2015.