Strengthening National Broadband Backbone with SEA-ME-WE-5

Sibtain Jiwani
March 09, 2015
The planned configuration of the SEA-ME-WE-5 under-sea cable

The planned configuration of the SEA-ME-WE-5 under-sea cable

Remember how, a few years ago, internet access in Pakistan came to an almost halt because of a cut in one of the under-sea broadband cables, followed by a surprise cut in a second cable as well? The country was left with two under-sea cables and some satellite based bandwidth. It was like a 4 lane road suddenly cramped into 2 lanes, causing severe traffic congestion and slowing down of internet speeds.

Since then, Pakistan has understood the importance of the internet to its businesses and home users and has steadily strengthened the national backbone providing internet connectivity to me, you and everybody else.

These under-sea cables pass through the sea and connect the “WWW” together. Pakistan currently offers internet connectivity to its citizens using the following four under-sea cables:

  • SEA-ME-WE-3 (South East Asia, Middle East and Western Europe 3), owned by PTCL
  • SEA-ME-WE-4, owned by PTCL
  • I-ME-WE, owned by PTCL
  • TWA-1, owned by a private entity called Transworld Associates

In comes the news, Transworld is adding a 5th under-sea cable to Pakistan’s national backbone allowing us to better deal with any such incidents in the future and should something happen, you will probably not be as badly affected as we were all back in 2013. The SEA-ME-WE-5 is designed to support a 24 terabits per second capacity – shared amongst the countries along its path.

This also gives broadband operators, the ones we use at home for our internet, an alternative to PTCL and will open up the market as well, allowing competition in the national backbone space.

SEA-ME-WE-5 is expected to become operational by the year 2016.

With inputs from The Express Tribune.

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