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GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) would start enjoying third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G) internet services at the beginning of next year, a senior official of the Special Communication Organisation (SCO) said on Monday.

Speaking to journalists at his office, SCO Sector Commander Colonel Imran Butthy said work was in progress and the fast-paced internet service was expected to be available in the initial months of next year.

“Approval of the government is awaited and once it is received work will be completed soon,” he said.

SCO is a public sector organisation which works under the Ministry of Information Technology and managed by the Pakistan Army.

Admitting that the service had been faulty at times, Butthy said extreme climatic conditions coupled with landslides in the mountainous G-B always posed a challenge to the organisation in ensuring the delivery of quality service.

“There are so many places prone to landslides in G-B,” he said about the region stretching over 2,500 kilometres through which an optical fibre cable network had been laid by the SCO. “But within the next two or three months, you will see improvement.”

He said SCO faced bandwidth challenges until recently that slowed down internet connectivity but insisted that the issue had been addressed now.

The sector commander denied private companies were banned in the region by the SCO. “We haven’t stopped anyone,” he said. “The private companies are avoiding the region due to their own extra expenditure.”

The Pakistan-China optical fibre cable project, which was part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), would also provide benefits for G-B, he said.

The project is expected to be completed in two years at a cost of Rs4.4 billion. Under the programme, an 820km-long cable will be laid from Rawalpindi to Khunjerab.

On completion, the project will provide an alternative telecommunication route between Pakistan and China.

SCO was established in 1976 to develop, operate and maintain telecom services in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and G-B.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2016.

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