July / August  2006





August/September Contents 

Sufis - wisdom against

 Sufi poet saints

 50 years of mountain

 Interviews with:
 Ajaz Anwar
Iqbal Hussain
Kamil Mumtaz

 Heritage cities:
 Taxila Dharmrajika
 Bhera - Part I
Bhera - Part II


Cotton - the fibre of

Cotton textiles of
 South Asia

 Handlooms & Dyes

 Hiran Minar


 Lahore Gymkhana

 B2B - Part I

B2B - Part II

Optical Networks I
Optical Networks II

Role of Internet in
 S Asian development

Technology and
 investment in US
 stock markets

Security & Trust in
 Internet banking

 Telecom & software
 - trends & future in
 South Asia

China & India - major
 players by 2025

Pakistan - IT Markets
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV








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Pakistan Markets in IT & Telecomm Convergent Technologies

Part II


 the Special report undertaken for The abstracts will be published in parts over the next year. The complete unabridged report is available to interested readers for U.S. $300.00


Salman Minhas


First published in May/June 2003




Salman Saeed


The Local Loop / Last Mile Problems

It is important to note that the DXX network of PTCL essentially runs over the PTCL's optical fiber system. However, except for a very few cases that can be counted on fingertips, the delivery of this network to the client premise is done on the same old copper cables. While the aging cables do not impact voice communication severely, the impact on data circuits is fatal. DXX circuits beyond 128 kbps capacity cannot work properly on a bad copper cable as the CRC and framing errors cross the tolerance limit. In most of the cases, subscribers are found to be running from pillar to post, pleading in vain, to get a 'healthy copper cable'. Better, new cables, with fewer joints need to be laid to enable trouble free data circuit delivery to the end users. Also, this will ensure that broadband services can be rolled out on the same cables in the immediate future. Also, PTCL is laying down optical fiber access network to business areas FTTB. These optical fiber access networks will enable PTCL and its licensees to deliver broadband services to the end customers. Till now, extremely few optical fiber access networks have been commissioned and this area needs to be given proper attention.

PTCL has revised downwardly the rates for the national DXX circuits, which were abnormally high a few months ago. A 64 kbps DXX circuit between Karachi and Lahore now costs just around Rs 65,000 per months!


DSL services and the Local Loop limitations:

Lastly, the average distance between the exchange and the subscriber in the case of Pakistan is too high. This is so because the network was planned for voice-only operations that work on the old technology. However, as residential and commercial broadband access solutions gain popularity, these copper pairs will be used for xDSL services as well. A prime requirement for running most of the DSL service is that the cable length from the exchange to the subscriber should be limited to less than three cable-route kilometers. A few services that can offer multi-megabit access rate require an exchange-to-subscriber cable distance of less than a kilometer.

Of course, asking PTCL to make the situation better here is in fact asking them to redesign their whole network where instead of one big exchange covering a very large area the scene would change to smaller areas being serviced by numerous exchanges. Our only hope today is the setting up of private telephone operators that would follow this trend. But this would only happen after the much-anticipated deregulation in the coming years.

PTCL has signed O&M Contracts with four private sector operators namely Habib Rafiq International, Micronet Broadband, Multinet Broadband and Sysnet Pakistan to deploy countrywide DSL networks. The first such service from Islamabad is being inaugurated by the Minister for Science & Technology on July 9, 2003.

Satellite Internet Gateways:

To bring the Internet backbone costs further down (which will result in further Industry development), PTA needs to allow the establishment of Satellite Internet Gateways. Establishment of such Internet gateways will pass the concession benefits of bulk purchasing to the end users. As major service providers will be competing, prices per megabit will decrease sharply and in most cases will enhance the connectivity. Currently, PTCL is the sole entity that could provide physical full duplex international circuits that are used to run Internet backbones. And, being a monopoly, PTCL makes sure it charges all that it can for this service.

Wireless Access:

Cables and wires aside, wireless access networks are the most exciting area of both development as well as deployment. Wireless networks are easy to implement and the amount of 'ground breaking' work needed is very small. The instant roll-out capability of wireless network makes it a very good choice for launching fresh new access services. In case of Pakistan, we need finalization of rules and regulations with respect to the allocation of frequencies and licenses to operators of wireless network access.

Pakistan Internet Exchange (PIE):

PTCL has taken up a project of setting up Pakistan Internet Exchange (PIE) which will comprise of an ATM backbone connecting major cities of Pakistan. Subscribers (i.e. Internet Service Providers and corporate customers) will be able to subscribe to large chunks of Internet bandwidth through PIE. PTCL in turn will get STM-1 (or better) connectivity from a US backbone provider. A sizeable number of ISPs currently have their international circuits commissioned via satellite, which results in high latency circuits. PIE will have its backbone over SMW-3, the international submarine optical fiber cable system, which is a low latency medium.

As Internet backbone shifts over to PIE in due time, the subscribers will experience better Internet browsing from their respective ISPs. However, all about PIE is not that rosy. The PIE design does not contain any one-to-one redundancy (in case the SMW3 cable gets broken, there is no satellite backup provisioning). Also, how PTCL is going to guarantee the Quality of Service to its subscribers - the Internet Service Providers remains to be seen. The industry in general is very skeptical about the whole QoS issue. Keeping in mind that since the rates offered (for backbone connectivity) to the ISPs from PIE will be very attractive, we will have the entire lot connected to PIE. While this will be good for inter-ISP traffic, any mishandling of this set up will result in almost everyone being affected.




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