There has been a paradigm shift in terms of connectivity because of developments in the ICT industry over the last decade. Fortunately, Pakistan is also starting to gain momentum on that front with the country’s flagship connectivity provider, PTCL.
Mr. Saad Muzaffar Waraich, Chief Technology and Information Officer at PTCL, sat down with ProPakistani to provide some valuable insights on the company’s progress.
Mr. Waraich is a telecom industry veteran with a market experience that spans decades. He has played an instrumental role in getting multiple flagship tech initiatives off the ground and has served leading telecom and technology companies.
Give us a breakdown of the technology and readiness for the future at PTCL.
PTCL initiated a major network modernization drive in 2016, which began with high-end customers. We realized that the core, metro and subsidiary networks had to be upgraded as well to serve our customers better.
To accomplish that, the core network was upgraded to a 100G, DWDM multi-path network. Although the developments were supposed to be accomplished by September and we faced some delays but I’m happy to say that we are finally in the final stages and are nearing completion. Our developments countrywide will continue with access network modernization for our customers – more than half of our access network has already been upgraded.
When it comes to upgrading technological infrastructure, there are two angles to it, i.e. customer perspective and network availability – we are working on both streams for all the segments (Consumers, Carriers, Corporate Sector, and International Voice & Data) we serve.
The main segment is, of course, the consumer segment with 1.4 million broadband customers being served by our network.
From the network perspective, there is the Core Network that is located in the three major cities i.e. Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. Next comes the aggregation part (Metro & Subsidiary) that is built around the core network and carries the major traffic. Finally, there is the access part through which we serve our customers.
How’s the modernization of IP networks coming along?
Our IP networks are being completely modernized, along with constant revamping in the core and metro areas of the transport networks.
Prior to this development, PTCL had two IPs and a 3rd Ufone IP, however, all of these will be merged into a single IP network after the upgrade is complete. The project is almost at its conclusion in terms of the physical structure and the customers are gradually being shifted to the new service.
We have started the modernization by first bringing the Carrier customers on the network, secondly, our Corporate customers. We are gradually working towards a clean, homogenous network with our key network infrastructure partners.
How are you optimizing traffic?
When we started our broadband and IP services, all of the data was downloaded or streamed through the content located on servers across the world, which was not only very costly, but also caused a lot of latency.
Over the last few years, large content providers like Google, YouTube, and Facebook, etc. started promoting Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and direct peering to help optimize the traffic, while ensuring efficiency in cost and time. Its benefit is that content can now be streamed and downloaded at blazing fast speeds.
However, with the growing speeds, the data consumption also grows massively that further pushes the traffic, as well as the cost to a monumental rise.
There is a case study within our organization whereby the gamer community was engaged. Being a vocal community, these gamers shared their specific expectations and current issues related to the overall online gaming experience. The purpose of engaging, this niche but the crucial segment, was to use their valuable feedback to help improve traffic for our key services to serve them better.
Where do we stand on the availability of localized content to the Carrier customers?
Carrier customers usually have their own CDNs to work with but they can be entertained upon their request or need. Eventually it can be a possibility depending on the business case.
Is the current fiber network sufficient to uphold the 5G network?
I personally feel that the market doesn’t have a need for a 5G right now, therefore, I don’t think that forming a network to uphold a 5G network makes business sense.
However, due to the investments we have made in our fiber infrastructure, we are we well prepared to serve our CMO customers with a low latency should they choose to launch 5G services.
What measures is PTCL taking for portfolio enhancement?
Being focused on expansion, Fiber to the Home (FTTH) is the way forward for network growth in the metropolitan areas and secondary market in remote areas.
In the international market, we are serving all four operators in Afghanistan, a country that has a smaller area and comparatively lower bandwidth requirements.
While currently being our smallest business vertical, the Enterprise/Corporate segment has a lot of potential to further grow. Our Carrier segment is also a growing vertical as we are able to provide IP across any medium across our network. We are also working to provide end to end managed capacity solutions to our Carrier customers and manage their network requirements, enabling them to focus on their core business.
Where are we on ensuring security in an increasingly digital age?
To assure our enterprise customers that we are secure enough to host their systems and data, we work with certified partners who provide protection according to international standards. We provide various options to our customers including outsourcing through our principles or directly through our own resources.
Moreover, we also remain in touch with the law enforcement agencies in order to curb malicious practices online/web.
Is PTCL facilitating SMEs and Startups in terms of Cloud Management?
Right now, the startup market in Pakistan has not shown any significant need for PTCL Cloud Management solutions as they are served directly through platforms such as Google or Amazon. However, we believe that there is a lot of potential in SME sector as it’s easier for them to get cloud services from a trusted partner like PTCL to manage their present and future connectivity needs.
We realize that our solutions are currently catering to the bigger enterprises in terms of affordability. However, we are also working on customized solutions for fulfilling the needs of the SME segment.
How is the company leveraging emerging technologies e.g. Artificial Intelligence to improve its services?
Being the leader in providing network across Pakistan, we have advanced technology and tools that use intelligence being generated out of the network to proactively address customers’ needs and make faster, efficient, and seamless connectivity possible. We have all the capabilities of a connectivity platform that is promising and making its way achieve technical brilliance.