Pakistan Internet Link Repairs to Take Three Days

Pakistan's data and Internet links with the outside world will be affected until at least the weekend as repairs are carried out on a faulty undersea fiber-optic cable, telecommunications officials said on Wednesday.

The cable developed a fault late on Monday, cutting the country's international data links, including the Internet, and causing chaos for businesses across the country. Satellite back-up systems were brought on-stream on Wednesday, restoring some Internet access.

"Data connectivity will not be as fast as it normally is but we've provided satellite back-up," said Mashkoor Hussain, vice president of operations at Pakistan Telecommunication Co. Ltd., which operates the data link. Telephone links had not been affected, he said.

"Two satellite back-up systems have been provided from 9 a.m. (0400 GMT) to ensure that banks and other businesses like airline ticketing can be provided with Internet data facilities as normal as possible," he said.

Hussain said an attempt to repair the cable -- Pakistan's sole international cable Internet link -- early on Wednesday had failed.

A repair ship from the company that laid the cable was due to set off from Dubai on Wednesday afternoon and it should reach the site, about

50 km (30 miles) off the coast, on Thursday afternoon. Repair work was then expected to take 48 hours, he said.

"The repair work is major, the cable will have to be taken out and repaired," another PTCL official said.

Hussain said the repairs would not have an impact on neighboring countries, including India, which are also linked up to the faulty cable. Those countries had back-up cables, he said.

Business people in Pakistan said things were a bit better but they were still facing serious difficulties.

"The situation has slightly improved today but we're still facing a lot of problems. Most of our work is being carried out manually," said a foreign bank dealer.

Records of bank transactions were not being logged electronically, a local bank dealer said.

"A large backlog has built up and it's increasing all the time. It's a big disaster," the second dealer said.

Nasir Ali of the private Air Blue airline said his company's Web-based booking system was working, but very slowly.

"PTCL has given us some relief but our system is still very slow," Ali told Reuters.

The head of Pakistan's Internet Service Providers' Association, V.A. Abdi, said the providers normally had total bandwidth of 600 megabites at their disposal but now they had just 34. Pakistan has about 10 million Internet users, he said.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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