the-south-asian.com July / August 2006
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Pakistan – Markets in IT & Telecomm Convergent Technologies
the Special report undertaken for the-south-asian.com. 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
First published in September 2003
PAKISTAN TELECOMM SECTORS
4.0 UNDER-SEA Fiber- Optic Cable.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with eleven international telecom firms to jointly work on the construction of a new undersea cable linking South East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The South East Asia Middle East-Western Europe cable (SMW4) network will connect the 12 countries i.e. Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy and France, an official of the PTCL said on Thursday.
The telecom companies other than PTCL are the PT Indosat, Singapore Telecom, Telekom Malaysia Berhad, Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board, Bharti Telesonic, Sri Lanka Telecom, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, Emirates Telecom, Saudi Telecom, Telecom Egypt, Telecom Italia SPA and France Telecom.
According to plans, this mega cable project will be built using the Dense Wave Division Multiplexing DWDM technologies [ essentially a Fiber Optic Cable to Channel splitter technology ] , with a proposed design capacity of 1.28 Terabits per second (Tbps). The network will provide increased bandwidth as the existing cables along the same route have reached a saturation point. The cable project, which is expected to be ready for service in 2004, will bring a revolution in the ICT sector by increasing the speed of data transfer through the Internet. It will be built using DWDM ( Dense Wavelength Division Multiplening) technology, with a proposed capacity of 1.28 terabits per second (TBPS) speed to 1024 G.B.
The submarine cable network will provide the much-needed bandwidth as the existing cables along the same route become saturated. Currently, data traffic from the Southern Asia and the Middle East to Europe is routed via smaller capacity cable, mainly SEA-ME-WE-3, with a speed of 40 G.B. per second and FLAG having a speed of 10 G.B. per second.
They signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Bali, Indonesia to develop the Southeast-Asia, Middle East, Western Europe-4 (SEA-ME-WE-4) cable network.
The optical fiber network will connect the country with the global high-speed communications area and bring about a revolution in the information and communication technology (ICO) sector in the country.
The SEA-ME-WE 4 consortium cable would link Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy and France. Each member country would have free access to the counterparts' cable landing point. The SEA-ME-WE 4 is scheduled to be operational by the first quarter of 2004.
This cable project is backed by experienced telecommunications operators with a ready customer base in their home markets. The other partners in the cable project are PT Indosat, Singapore Telecommunications Limited, Telecom Malaysia Berhad, Bharti Telesonic, Sri Lanka Telecom Limited, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, Emirates Telecommunications Corporation, Saudi Telecom, Telecom Egypt, Telecom Italia S.p.A and France Telecom.
Currently, data traffic from South East Asia and the Middle East to Europe is routed via smaller capacity cables, mainly South East Middle East Western Europe 3 (SEMEWE-3) and Fibre Link Around Globe (FLAG). According to the PTCL spokesman, most of the partners are common investors in the new venture that had a stake in the SMW3 cable system.
He said, the factors like growing internet penetration, rise of internet distributed media, data storage and other bandwidth intensive application coupled with telecom deregulation and increased competition warrants the implementation of a new high capacity fibre optic submarine cable system. The PTCL has been striving hard to get a new landing of Fibre Optic Cable in Pakistan and its participation in SMW4 consortium shows the commitment of the company to have diversified cable connectivity for the country.
Pakistan will have at least one more submarine fibre optic, which will be in operation by the end of the year.
The Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) had given approval for the laying of the high-speed undersea optical fibre to link up the country with international communications in December 2001, in the third meeting of National Commission on Science and Technology. Pakistan will lay down the undersea optical fibre from its territorial water limits to Dubai where it would be connected with the already existing international cable named FLAG, project of a consortium comprising several European, Asian and Gulf States.
Pakistan would lay the undersea optical fibre from its territorial limits to Fujeirah, a point near Dubai, where it would be connected with the FLAG. The project worth $55 million would take a year for completion. FLAG would not charge for the connection but claim a share in the revenue, which Pakistan would earn from its consumers. Currently, sources said that the country was connected with an international undersea optical fibre, SEMEWE-3.The SEMEWE-3 is a project of 34 countries including Pakistan. These countries in 1998 laid down the undersea optical fibre cables. Pakistan had borne $35 million of the total cost of the project and was awarded 3 per cent usage quota of from the total capacity of the SEMEWE-3.
However, sources said; that Pakistan was not utilising the whole of its quota, as it has more than its need. Keeping in view the same point, PTCL rented out rest of its quota and was earning handsome revenue, added the sources. Defining the need of the new undersea optical fibre, sources said that the SEMEWE-3 was vulnerable to cuts (accidental and malicious) and international communications between Pakistan and the world could be disrupted for several weeks. The only access would in such circumstances would be via the backup Intelsat Satellite System. The main purpose of the second fibre link is to make an alternate option, in case of any failure.
4. 1 FLAG [ Fiber Optic Link Around the Globe ]
Telecom started its Pakistan Point of Presence (POP) in collaboration with PTCL. FLAG offers an alternate physical optical fiber route out of Pakistan for Internet access and point-to-point international corporate data networks. Availability of an alternate route for Internet access lowers the risks associated with the current single point of failure (in the form of [SEA-ME-WE3] South East - Middle East – Western Europe submarine Fiber Optic link with UAE.
4.2 Broadband Internet via ISDN & xDSL over existing copper phone line Internet
Micronet , and Sysnet , are offering xDSL based high speed Internet in Karachi and Lahore and Islamabad.
For ISDN Internet circuits, PRI-Exchanges were also commissioned for commercial operations in major cities of Pakistan mostly with Chinese technology from Hua Wei and ZTE. These purpose-built exchanges provide high concentration of PRI circuits to corporate customers and Internet Service Providers. Before the availability of this exchange, potential PRI customers were facing long delays in service provisioning as well as falling service standards. As majority of the ISPs use PRI circuits to interconnect with the PSTN, ready availability of this service omens well for the dialup Internet users.
Internet access via ISDN lines saw a boom during 2002. With ISDN demand increasing within its customers, the state-owned telecom upgraded its major exchanges with additional ISDN hardware to meet the outstanding requirements. The advent of Chinese vendors in the
telecom switch market has paved way for cost-effective high capacity upgrades in the PTCL infrastructure as manifested by the installation of thousands of ISDN ports in major PTCL exchanges.
DSL services were offered to the general public by the state owned PTCL under a franchise-based set up where four private companies were awarded licenses to operated DSL services on behalf of PTCL in the major cities. Despite a lot of operational issues and problems inherent to the local copper infrastructure, the new service got very favorable response from the public and was an instant hit amongst the community network operators and cyber-café operators who had been facing an ever-increasing demand on the user side and were stuck with dialup connections.
Paknet, the ISP and sister organization of PTCL launched a WiFi (802.11b) network in Karachi which can theoretically provide broadband access to mobile users over regular wireless network adapters. While the service costs its users an arm and a leg, it ushers the advent of 2.4 GHz band public services for Internet access in the local market.
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