The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said on Friday that voice and internet services had been disrupted due to damage caused by torrential rains and flash floods in several areas of Balochistan, including Quetta.
The services had been impacted in Quetta, Ziarat, Khuzdar, Loralai, Pishin, Chaman, Panjgur, Zhob, Qila Saifullah and Qila Abdullah because of damage to optical fibre cables, the telecoms regulator said.
“Efforts are being made to resolve this unprecedented situation. PTA is monitoring the situation and further updates will be shared,” it added.
The PTA’s update came amid reports of people struggling to contact family members in the province.
This is the third time in less than a week that cellular and internet services have been disrupted. They were also disrupted on Aug 22 and 23, which the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) said was due to multiple cuts in Ghotki, Khairpur and Sukkur districts amid the ongoing rains.
A technical report submitted by PTCL to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom earlier this week stated that repeated internet outages were mainly because of flood relief efforts in Sukkur division where fibre-optic cables were being damaged mainly by heavy machinery used to clear water in Sindh.
Talking to Dawn, Minister for IT and Telecom Syed Aminul Haque had said initial reports suggested that the situation was serious and more such incidents could be expected in near future.
“Due to extensive flooding, most of the pathways of underground cables have been submerged, as relief workers or locals were trying to divert floodwater by digging trenches on roads and footpaths,” he added.
More than 900 people have been killed in this year’s monsoon, while the government officially declared a ‘national emergency’ in light of the rain-induced floods on Thursday.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority, Pakistan received 166.8mm of rain in August, as opposed to the average of 48mm — an increase of 241 per cent.
Consequently, the abnormal increase in rainfall generated flash floods across the country, causing loss of lives and heavy damage to infrastructure.
The total internet usage in Pakistan is around six terabytes, mainly supplied through seven submarine internet cable systems, of which four are operated by PTCL, two by Transworld Associates and a new cable system that recently came online, owned by a Chinese company. Almost 80pc of this internet traffic comes through more than 50,000km widespread PTCL network.
PTCL’s cable network has a capacity to carry 6.5-terabyte data, but only 70pc of the total capacity is utilised so that traffic could be shifted to other cables in case of damages.
Apart from its own retail internet service, a large number of internet service providers (ISPs), including Storm Fibre and Nayatel, buy bulk internet from PTCL, and any damage to the company’s cable system results in internet service disruptions and degradation for customers of other ISPs too.