A MAP of the India-Middle East-Western Europe (IMEWE) submarine cable system which links Pakistan and India with Europe across several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Libya and Italy.
A MAP of the India-Middle East-Western Europe (IMEWE) submarine cable system which links Pakistan and India with Europe across several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Libya and Italy.

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: A fault in the India-Middle East-Western Europe (IMEWE) submarine cable caused consumers and businesses across Pakistan major internet disruptions, the Pakistan Tele­communication Authority (PTA) said on Saturday, adding that customers may experience slow browsing speed.

However, many people complained that they had no internet service at all.

“The Pakistan Telecom­munication Company Limi­ted (PTCL) has set up alternate routes to get the internet back up. The international team is dealing with the IMEWE and it will take a few days to sort out,” said PTCL spokesperson Imran Janjua.

“At the moment, there are two submarine cables which are down — there was a similar issue in July this year and it is still being repaired,” he added.

PTA says traffic being rerouted through alternative routes; tech industry at a virtual standstill

The PTA and PTCL did not confirm how long it would take to restore internet services in the country.

The IMEWE submarine cable is an ultra-high capacity fibre optic undersea cable system which links India and Europe via the Middle East. The 12,091km-long cable has nine terminal stations, operated by leading telecom carriers from eight countries.

“One of the PTCL cables has been cut near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Currently, internet services are affected. However, PTCL is in process [of shifting] its traffic on alternate routes/cables and services will be better soon,” said PTA spokesperson Khurram Mehran.

Khalid Bajwa of Patari, the country’s largest Pakis­tani music streaming platform, said that they had content scheduled to go up on social media on Saturday.

“Everything has stopped. There were a couple of videos which had to go to a brand for approval but nothing has happened. We upload around three to four videos everyday and have been trying to do so since morning but no luck,” he told Dawn.

WonderTree, a start-up run by Mohammad Waqas, also faced similar issues.

“We are a technology start-up and we have not been able to do anything from morning to evening,” he said.

“We had a lot of deadlines for Saturday, as it is the weekend and we needed to wind up a lot of things. Online banking was not available either, so we could not make payments. We just weren’t able to function,” he added.

Akash Sheikh of Nest IO — a technology incubator — said: “It is of great concern that our internet connectivity nationwide has been affected. A strong internet link is essential for productivity and critical to our infrastructure.”

Naseer Akhtar, chairman of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), explained that such accidents happened all over the world, but stressed the necessity to invest in alternative routes for internet traffic, so businesses and people don’t suffer. “We’re lucky it happened over the weekend and not during a busy week,” he said.

According to Mustafa Butt, an information technology entrepreneur, activities came to a halt at work throughout the day. “Luckily it is a holiday and there is not much of a work load,” he added.

Mohammad Faisal, another IT entrepreneur, said that his entire day had been wasted. “Whatever little progress could be made was through mobile data. Most companies in the IT sector cannot afford the slightest disruption in internet service,” said the entrepreneur.

The outage also impacted mobile networks and internet service providers. Although Nayatel messaged its subscribers that its links would up by evening, browsing remained slow. PTCL subscribers struggled with browsing till late Saturday evening.

Wi-Tribe sent a message out to its customers explaining that “you might experience slow speed issue today due to a severe bandwidth degradation affecting all the internet service providers in Pakistan.”

Internet services were also disrupted in July, when a similar fault with one of the PTCL submarine cables created an outage. It took several hours before the internet traffic — both incoming and outgoing — were routed through an alternative cable.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2017