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Last Updated: Friday, 8 July 2005, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Pakistan communications restored
By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Man logged on to the internet in Pakistan
Pakistan has about 10m internet users
A fault in an undersea cable that disrupted Pakistan's voice and data links with the rest of the world has been repaired, officials said.

The underwater optic fibre cable was recommissioned shortly after noon on Friday, telecom officials said.

Banks, brokerages, internet service providers and call centres were badly hit by the disruption.

Telecom officials say they are now working on erecting a back-up link to avoid similar breakdowns in future.

The optic fibre cable - Pakistan's only telecommunications link with the outside world - developed a fault on 27 June.

Pakistan sought assistance from the 92-member consortium that operates the cable, since the country does not have the technology to deal with such problems on its own.

But repairs were hampered by bad weather in the Arabian Sea - delaying ships from reaching the problem area for several days.

Deeper think

While the immediate problem has been dealt with, Pakistan's budding IT industry is now pressing the government to give more thought to its communication infrastructure.

The government is under fire from industry professionals on two counts:

Firstly, they are asking the government why a back-up system was not in place.

A phone in amongst a sea of cables
Cables at the bottom of the sea have now been fixed

So far, the 39,000km cable - which links Pakistan to South East Asia, the Middle East and Western Europe - is the country's sole link to the outside world.

At the time it was commissioned some four years ago, Pakistan rejected the proposal of linking up with India or Iran as a back-up, citing security issues.

Telecom officials at the time agued in favour of a satellite link as an alternative.

After the breakdown the authorities acquired a back-up satellite system. But it turned out to be insufficient for the country's needs, providing only about half the bandwidth required.

Secondly, IT professionals accuse the government of not taking Pakistan's growing commercial dependence on the internet seriously.

The Pakistan Call Centres Association says it may have lost deals amounting to $10m with their counterparts in India because of the breakdown.

There are no estimates of how much money the smaller businesses may have lost due to the disruption, the association says.

But independent analysts say that the Pakistan economy's dependence on the internet has not yet reached a point where such a disruption could lead to serious financial losses.

Telecom officials say that the government has finally shed its security concerns and has agreed on a back-up cable link through India.

The back-up is expected to be in place by October this year by the latest, they say.

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