ISLAMABAD: Telephone and internet services in at least 10 districts of Balochistan were partially restored, hours after they were suspended due to the damage caused to the cable network.

Meanwhile, the government has asked mobile telecom companies to enable consumers in the flood-hit areas in all the provinces to make calls, even with zero balance.

According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Quetta, Ziarat, Khuzdar, Loralai, Pashin, Chaman, Panjgur, Zhob, Qila Saifullah and Qila Abdullah suffered a massive internet and telephone blackout on Friday noon.

The PTA said a serious damage to the cable and optical-fibre network due to torrential rains and flash floods caused the outages.

Damage to cable network causes blackout; flood victims can make calls on ‘zero balance’

The optical-fibre cable network of PTCL has suffered cuts at three different locations due to the usage of heavy machinery for clea­ring floodwater, the PTA said in a statement.

However, by-passes and satellite-based connectivity were used to operationalise telephone and data services in Quetta by 3pm, the PTA added.

The services of PTCL and telecom operators, including Ufone and Telenor, started coming online by 4pm in Quetta and other districts, the PTA statement said.

However, the services in some areas could not be restored till Friday evening.

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque has issued directives for the telecom firms to activate their emergency service systems, the statement added.

The minister has also issued directives for the companies, including PTCL, to utilise all possible resources to bring all areas online.

The statement said that the networks of Zong and Jazz have suffered in some areas after Radio Base Stations (telecom towers) saw either technical or structural damage.

Meanwhile, a technical expert in Telenor said that as cables in the PTCL network were hit by rehabilitation works, the company adopted different routes that were not impacted.

A senior IT ministry official said that all the telecom operators were using three different cable routes for traffic and all of them went down on Friday morning.

“Despite accessibility issues, one of the cables has been recovered now, and it is being used mainly for voice traffic for all operators,” the official said, adding that if the situation deteriorates, and the cable suffers the damage again, the connectivity will drop for Quetta and other key areas.

Sources in the ministry said Mr Haque had held discussions with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the army’s top brass to extend all possible help to the teams of PTCL and other telecom companies to repair the damaged cables and other infrastructure.

Consumers to make calls on zero balance

On Friday evening, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced that consumers in the flood-hit areas in all the provinces can make calls even with zero balance.

The IT and telecommunication ministry and PTA have issued directives for all mobile telecom companies to arrange the facility from Saturday (today).

“The initiative has been taken to improve public rescue and relief efforts,” a statement by the Prime Minister Office said.

In another development, the PTA has allocated a short code “9999” to enable mobile subscribers to donate to ‘Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2022’. Users can donate Rs10 by typing ‘fund’ in SMS and sending it to 9999.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2022

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