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In the past, Pakistan’s connectivity through submarine cables has caused great financial loss in addition to causing disturbance and network issues with the world. To reduce the dependence on undersea cable systems, the establishment of an alternate high capacity cable network was necessary. For this purpose, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between China and Pakistan for cross border connectivity through optical fiber cables.
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An 820 Km long optical fiber cable has been laid down between Khunjerab Pass on the border of China-Pakistan and Rawalpindi, this is known as the Cross Border Optical Fiber Cable Project. The total investment of this project is US$37 Million that is financed by Exim Bank of China at a concessionary interest rate of 2%. The groundbreaking of this project was performed on 13th July 2018 by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
466.5 kilometers (km) of cable passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, 287.66 km is in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 47.56 km is in the province of Punjab, and 18.204 km is in Islamabad Capital Territory. The fiber cable reaches Rawalpindi City from Khunjerab. The alignment of the CPEC optical fiber cable project is Rawalpindi, Mansehra, Naran, Babusar top, Chillas, Gilgit, Karimabad, and Khunjerab. This project is owned by Special Communication Organization (SCO) and Huawei is the contractor for the engineering, procurement and construction of this project.
This project hopes to convert the trade corridor into a digital corridor under China Pakistan Economic Corridor. It will play a significant role in the provision of 3G and 4G services in Gilgit-Baltistan, and will enable advanced telecom facilities on the route of CPEC, providing direct access to Pakistan, China, Europe and the Central Asian countries. It will also facilitate trade, boost tourism and create IT awareness in the region.