KARACHI: As the world observed the International Internet Day on Tuesday, Pakistan faced a countrywide disruption in internet services following a fault in its submarine cables.

“We regret to inform you that due to international submarine cable fault, inter­­net services are impa­cted across Pakistan,” the Pakistan Tele­communi­ca­tion Company Limited (PTCL) said in a post on Twitter.

PTCL’s spokesperson Fariha Tahir Shah said customers might experience slow browsing but technical teams were working on fully restoring internet services in the shortest possible time. “PTCL sincerely reg­rets this temporary inconvenience caused to valued customers, under the prevalent circumstances,” the spokesperson added.

The Pakistan Telecom­munication Authority (PTA) in a statement said: “Due to a fault in international submarine cables at around 5pm today, users can face some problems in internet browsing quality. The PTCL is working with international consortiums to rectify the fault and to determine the cause and exact location of the fault occurred.”

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

Multiple users said they were experiencing slow browsing. Storm Fiber sent out an alert to its customers explaining that “you may face degradation on internet services and variation in latency to different destinations”.

“We are receiving complaints of slow browsing from across the country. We received an update from our upstream providers that they have been observing outages on multiple submarine cables. We are coordinating with PTA to resolve the problem at the earliest,” a Storm Fiber customer representative told Dawn. According to a ProPakistani report, two submarine cables had gone offline. “IMEWE and SEAMEWE 4, that carry almost 50 per cent of Pakistan’s internet traffic, went offline due to a fault at a location that’s yet not determined,” the report said.

Internet users across the country would experience downgraded speeds until the fault is fixed, ProPakistani reported, adding that, internet service providers “are in the process of shifting the load to other submarine systems that will balance the load to an extent”.

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. The IMEWE3 provides the bulk of the country’s internet bandwidth.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) online check-in systems also went down across the country due to the underwater cable fault.

“PTCL network is down due to damage to their underground cables causing outage of PIA Check-In systems across the country. We’re moving to backup systems & manual processes. We regret the inconvenience caused to our passengers due to the resulting delays. #PIACares @pid_gov #PIA,” the national flag carrier said in a tweet.

Internet outages are frequent in the country. An internet outage occurred earlier this year in June when services were disrupted due to multiple cable cuts. In 2017, internet users had to experience slow internet browsing owing to a fault that occurred in IMEWE near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2019