ISLAMABAD: As floodwater continues to flow out of upper Sindh, cutting and damaging fiber-optic connections, further internet disruptions are anticipated in the ensuing days.
In a technical report delivered on Wednesday to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom by Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), it was stated that the repeated internet outages were primarily caused by flood relief efforts in the Sukkur division, where fiber-optic cables were being damaged primarily by heavy machinery used to clear water in Sindh.
The ministry had requested technical reports from PTCL and Pakistan Telecom Authority after becoming aware of recent instances of frequent internet outages (PTA).
The PTA said that excavating trenches at numerous locations to redirect or drain off floodwater was to blame for the several cuts in fiber-optic cables rather than any sabotage or criminal activities.
According to the PTCL report, several cuts in the districts of Ghotki, Khairpur, and Sukkur were to blame for the most recent internet service outages, which were recorded on August 22 and 23. The Khairpur district’s tehsil Ranipur reported the most significant damage.
Syed Aminul Haque, the minister for IT and telecom, told Dawn that the situation appeared to be severe and that additional events of this nature would occur in the near future.
“Most of the underground cable channels have been drowned due to significant flooding,” he continued. “Relief workers or people were trying to redirect floodwater by digging trenches on roads and walkways.”
“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,” the minister said.
Around six terabytes of internet were used in Pakistan on a yearly basis, with most of the data coming through seven underwater internet cable systems, four of which are run by PTCL, two by Transworld Associates, and one new cable system that only just went live and is owned by a Chinese business. Nearly 80% of this internet traffic travels across the PTCL network, which spans more than 50,000 kilometres.
PTCL’s cable network can transport 6.5 terabytes of data, although only 70% of that amount is being used.
A vast number of internet service providers (ISPs), notably Storm Fibre and Nayatel, purchase bulk internet from PTCL in addition to its own retail internet service, thus any damage to the company’s cable infrastructure affects consumers of other ISPs as well.
According to a senior ministry official, reports of service interruptions and cable damage occur virtually everyday, but when optic-fibre cables are damaged, the issue worsens. However, there was no such problem for customers in Karachi, Hyderabad, Gwadar, and other districts of southern Sindh, the source said. “As the cables were broken in upper Sindh, the internet service in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and certain portions of Balochistan was interrupted,” the official added.