The China-Pakistan Fiber Optic Project has gone live and now put into commercial use. The 820 kilometers long optical link connects Rawalpindi in Pakistan and the Khunjerab in China. Known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor communication project, the optical link has particular importance to both countries.
The Special Communications Organization in Pakistan, who was overseeing the project commented that the optical link will play an important role for both China and Pakistan. The cable installation was managed by Pakistan Military as the cable passes through the Kashmir. Pakistan’s political rival India has been opposing the project raising reasons for regional conflicts.
The cross border terrestrial cable has border station in Tashikuergantajike in China, which will be operated by China Telecom. The total project cost was around US$44 million. Majority of the fund came from China. The cable link will help communication between China and Pakistan. China has been building the economic corridor from the Gwadar port to China that will dramatically reduce the shipping time and cost for the trading between Chinese companies and African countries. The shipping route is too long currently that passes through the Indian Ocean.
Pakistan’s Gilgit region will get the benefit of fiber optic communication since the underserved region has been suffering due to the political conflict between India and Pakistan. New data centers and telephone exchanges are under construction that will link to the fiber optic link.
China’s Exim Bank supported 85% of the fund by a concessionary loan. The project is owned by the Pakistan military owned Special Communications Organization and its engineering wing but the procurement and construction (EPC) contractor was Huawei.
Khunjerab Pass at an elevation of 4,880 meters is a high mountain pass in the Karakoram Mountains in a strategic position on the northern border of Pakistan (Region of Gilgit–Baltistan’s Hunza and Nagar Districts) and on the southwest border of China (the Xinjiang region).
Groundbreaking on the project took place on May 19, 2016, in the city of Gilgit. The project took more than two years for deployment. The project was conceived in 2009 with both Pakistan and China signing a mutual agreement for the implementation of the optical link. The project idea was dormant until the Economic Corridor project.
The China-Pakistan optical link will connect to the Europe-Asia Terrestrial Cable Network. This will provide redundancy to Pakistan’s communication lines, which is currently through submarine optical cables.
466.54 kilometers of the route will be located in Gilgit-Baltistan, while 287.66 kilometers will be laid in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 47.56 kilometers will be in Punjab province, and 18.2 kilometers in Islamabad Capital Territory. The optical link will bring 3G and 4G connectivity to the Gilgit-Baltistan region.