KARACHI: Telecom services — mainly cellular and internet — were disrupted for hours across the country on Monday because of multiple damage to the fibre-optic cable of the Pakistan Telecommuni­cation Company Limited in Sindh and Balochistan.

Several cities across the country faced a complete suspension of cellular and data services for at least five hours causing inconvenience not only to individuals but also to hundreds of businesses solely relying on internet services for their day-to-day operations.

While the PTCL management claimed that the fibre-optic cable damage did not hit its landline telephony, complaints poured in from different cities that the fixed lines also went out of service for hours.

A senior company official told Dawn that the fibre-optic cable was damaged in Khuzdar and Karachi simultaneously.

“Our technical teams spotted the places within no time. After hour-long labour, we have been able to restore services in a large number of areas,” said General Manager Imran Janjua. “We hope that the job will be completed very soon.”

At about 11pm, in a statement posted on the company’s official Twitter account, the PTCL claimed full restoration of the internet service. “We are sorry for the internet outage caused due to multiple cable cuts. All the services are fully restored now.”

Subscribers across the country started experiencing hiccups in the services in the afternoon and within a few hours the company’s telecom operation almost collapsed affecting mainly southern part of the country. Balochistan suffered the most as the province experienced almost a complete internet and cellular breakdown.

Mr Janjua also confirmed that the disruption was not confined to some cities.

“I can only say that several areas were affected,” he said. “Our lines were originally damaged in Khuzdar, Balochistan and Gulshan-i-Hadeed in Karachi. It was not a single damage but multiple ones, which created a big impact and led to inconvenience to our customers in several parts of the country. But let me tell you our landline service remained intact.”

Apart from operating one of the four undersea fibre-optic cables, the PTCL is the largest internet backbone provider in the country with more than 1.3 million subscribers in over 2,000 cities and towns across Pakistan.

The simultaneous damage to its fibre-optic cable in two different provinces also surprised the company, which set up an inquiry team to look into the matter.

“We can’t say anything right now,” Mr Janjua said. “We also have to look into the incident which caused the damage in two different cities at the same time. A high-powered inquiry team has been constituted to find out the reason behind the incident.”

Published in Dawn December 27th, 2016