CPEC, digital connectivity and Pakistan-China ties

In order to optimize the existing and future coordination in supply chains within Pakistan and with China information flows would have to excel through digital connectivity.

Pakistan China

The 820-kilometer-long fiber optic cable project at a cost of $46 million stretches from China’s western Xinjiang region and enters Pakistan through Khunjerab border and then travels through Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) to Mansehra, KPK to connect to Muzaffarabad, AJK and onwards to Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where it is connected with existing optical connectivity network of Pakistan.

In order to optimize the existing and future coordination in supply chain within Pakistan and with the China information flows, financial flows, physical flows of goods and services would excel through digital connectivity between China.

Improved socio-cultural ties, trade between China and Pakistan

It will also promote and facilitate regional economic cooperation and will enable many ICT integration services between both countries. This connectivity spread from many soft to hard infrastructural projects such as paperless trade facilitation, e-commerce, e-government plays a supporting role in the construction and management of industrial parks, roads, rail, aviation and ports.

On the other hand, this cable connectivity will provide many opportunities to enhance people to people connectivity between China and Pakistan. The adaptation of China’s Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB) technology is an indispensable component for socio cultural collaboration.

The arrival of DTMB standard in Pakistan enables high definition (HD) broadcasting for digital television (TV) which will provide many opportunities for the Pakistani media industry for revenue generation and promote many cultural exchange programs at a higher resolution between China and Pakistan.

Read more: A response to claim: COVID-19 will spread in Pakistan due to CPEC

The CPEC fiber optics plays vital role for unimpeded trade through China-Pakistan border. As digital infrastructural deficit in G-B is one of the biggest hurdles for efficient cross-border trade facilitation between China and Pakistan through Khunjerab border. The inception of new fiber cable introduced the online WEBOC (web based one system) custom system at dry port in G-B which is the first customs dry port through which all cargo coming from Khunjerab border must get cleared by Pakistan Customs before entering the Country.

It is recommended to have proper training for using this new system and address the queries of local trader before introducing new WEBOC at Sust port and further integrate this new system with Chinese custom system. As a result, this will help to reduce leakages in shipped goods and delay due to cumbersome documentation procedures of old system and overall reduce the trade facilitation problems persisted at China Pakistan border.

The laying of 820 kilometer long China-Pakistan fiber optic cable laid between the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan in the south and the Khunjerab Pass, China in the north and is operational since July, 2018.

Read more: CPEC: The real danger is US’s policies

By 2020, the 6,299 kilometers of underwater cables will extend to Djibouti from Gwadar and form the Digital Silk Route between Asia and Africa. At the same time, a space-based Silk Road will provide satellite navigation support to all BRI countries. The first Beidou base station of the Space Silk Road is already operational in Pakistan since 2017. BeiDou is making rapid progress with 30 BRI countries already linked up.

When completed, the ambitious global initiative would use an exclusive satellite navigation system, BeiDou, fiber networks and 5G on land and submarine cables will create a multi-dimensional digital mega-project across land, sea and space.

5G deployment will speed up

Huawei is already pushing for 5G deployment in Pakistan where it has already established a strong market presence. Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) has already identified spectrum in 2.6 GHz, 3.5 GHz and millimeter wave band it plans to allocate for auction to 5G vendors. This will include both fixed and mobile 5G deployment.

PTA has set up its 5G Working Group with members from telecom operators, vendors, manufacturers, Academia, R and D organizations, regulator (Pakistan Telecom Authority – PTA), Pakistan Government ministries and Frequency Allocation Board (FAB).

Over 65 million Pakistanis now subscribe to 3G and 4G services launched 5 years ago. 5G uptake rate in Pakistan is expected to be rapid. Attractive tariffs for 5G users will be the key to encouraging a large number of customers. The Trump Administration sees China’s aggressive 5G lead as a threat to the West’s technology dominance. US government has been warning its allies against use Huawei’s 5G equipment in their networks based on its fears of Chinese government espionage operations.

Read more: CPEC Authority Bill 2020: More powers transfer from parliamentarians to un-elected officials?

Chinese 5G suppliers currently hold 36% of all 5G patents worldwide. In spite of US efforts, Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE are beating their western rivals to acquire access to huge markets around the world in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East.

China is aggressively pursuing its plans to build a global digital superhighway that runs through Pakistan. This “Digital Silk Road” involves laying fiber optic cables in Pakistan which connect with China to the north and link with Africa and the Arab World via undersea cable to be laid from Gwadar Deep Sea Port built as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

A 820-kilometer-long China-Pakistan fiber optic cable has already been laid between Rawalpindi, Pakistan and the Khunjerab Pass, China.  The global project will include 5G wireless networks deployment in BRI (Belt Road Initiative) member nations. Meanwhile, the United States is continuing its campaign to have its allies boycott 5G equipment built by China’s Huawei.

COVID-19 according to some analyst it was also linked to 5G equipment and a weakened immune system which has further caused difficulties for the Chinese to spearhead their digital systems. However for Pakistan the digital divide that exists with the West will be bridged through the BRI systems incorporating communication and connectivity which will allow for multifold transfer of technology and a greater opportunity for our technological ecosystem to develop and flourish.

The author is an Assistant Professor. She is a graduate of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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