From: Julian Macassey
Subject: Pakistan Telephones
Date: 30 Jul 91 13:55:03 GMT
Reply-To: Julian Macassey
Organization: The Hole in the Wall Hollywood California U.S.A.

Pakistan has a telephone network that seems to be there as proof that you can create a system that doesn't work and then charge people for the priviledge of making call attempts, receiving wrong numbers and shouting to try and be heard.

The Pakistan system is a government monopoly, but there is talk of privatising it. The COs vary from cord boards with booked calls between towns in the tribal areas to digital switches with custom calling features in some parts of some cities.

The great majority of the phones are rotary. The instruments are either old 500 style sets, locally made, or the more modern instruments are clones of the German desk sets currently made by Siemens and Haganuk in Germany. The phones in Pakistan said "Made in Pakistan" on them, so I assume they are made under license. They come either with a rotary dial or push to pulse pad with the # (Octothorpe) being used for "Last Number Dialed" (LND).

According to the phone book, some areas have custom calling features available, but they explain that you need a special instrument -- they must mean Touch Tone as the instructions mention using the * and # keys.

Direct long distance dialling is a recent innovation in Pakistan. Also some COs (no doubt the digital ones with custom calling) have direct dial overseas calling. There is no itemised billing.

There are no phone booths, public calls are taken care of by people setting up a phone in a store front called a "PCO" (Public Call Office). I never used one of these, as the system worked so poorly, it wasn't worth bothering.

Some rural phones use radio links. The COs have forests of horizontal Yagi antennas on them. They connect to rural phones that operate in a similar manner to the old IMTS mobile phone system. The frequencies in use vary between 148.00 and 162.00 Mhz.

Obtaining a phone requires "connections". The phone book drones on about how hard it is to install a phone and how it isn't always possible, etc. The usual telco monopoly drivel. But no worry, politicians are given a phone line quota. So they can hand out phone assignments as political favours. The Pakistan Phone company recently increased the quota -- yes, this is all above board and official.

The quality of connections is abyssmal. If your call does complete -- maybe 50% just do nothing -- and if the connection is not a wrong number, it may be so noisy and weak that you have to hang up and try again. Do you get credit for poor and wrong connections? Hell no, if you did, they would have to fix the problem or go broke. Calls are always at low levels, even across town. In the same CO, the calls often seem to be poorly terminated. It would appear that they use too few repeaters and then screw the gain too high. The level is always low and often when you pick up a ringing phone it just sings (feed back whistle). The level of crosstalk is fierce.

It is not unusual to have three or four conversations on your line. It is also not unusual to have the crosstalk louder than the party you are paying to shout at.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad (Their nation's capital) has rotary (ITT WECO) 1A2 all over. Works fine around the embassy. But outside calls are like everywhere else, so weak that if someone is talking in the same room, you have to ask them to be quiet so you can hear your call. I offered to ship them all my old rotary 1A2, but they declined.

Offices in Pakistan use a locally built PBX. It has three trunks and 20 extenstions. It is rotary only. Simple 0/1 toll restriction is possible. I saw newspaper ads for Siemens PBXs, but I never saw one installed. Most people who need access to more than one line use the Russian solution, rows of single line instruments on one desk. A travel agent in Islamabad had five single line instruments on his desk.

Drops to houses and offices are strung across roofs and through trees in a haphazard manner. The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar has its phone lines dangling six feet above the sidewalk -- really secure. The drop wires all seem to be spliced at 20 feet intervals -- maybe the wire is supplied in short lengths. The splices are simple twists and uninsulated.

The telco craft types use a locally built butt set. It does not have aligator clips on the wire leads, just bare wire. Connections are either wire wrap or screw terminals. I saw no punch down stuff.

In short, this is a system that is unusable. A textbook example of how not to put together a phone network. Seeing as a reliable phone system is essential to commerce, you wonder why they don't fix the phone system. But several U.S. phone companies are interested in buying the Paki phone system. AT&T and some RBOCS have expressed interest according to the Pakistani newspapers. Looking at their outside plant, I would say that any company that buys it would have to rip it all out and start again.

Julian Macassey, N6ARE@K6VE.#SOCAL.CA.USA.NA
742 1/2 North Hayworth Avenue Hollywood CA 90046-7142 voice (213) 653-4495

[Moderator's Note: I believe in a message yesterday it was noted the name of the telco there is 'PakTel'. And as Higdon would say, when the Pakistani telco started a subsidiary here in the USA they wanted it to have the same name as the parent company. :) PAT]


From: Julian Macassey
Subject: Afghan Phones
Date: 30 Jul 91 18:49:27 GMT
Reply-To: Julian Macassey
Organization: The Hole in the Wall Hollywood California U.S.A.

If you think the phone system is bad in Pakistan, try the Afghan system. They don't have one. I believe the phones in Kabul still work, but as the commies hold Kabul, I didn't go there.

Before the Ruskie invasion and uncivil war, there were some stats available on the phone system. Louis Dupree in his book on Afghanistan said the switching equipment was Czech. An Afghan who attended the telecom school there told me the switching equipment was German (Siemens). At best, there were never more than 75,000 lines in Afghanistan. Most of those lines were in Kabul (Their nation's capital). According to a refugee who used to be a ministerial heavy in Kabul, about the only lines going out to the provinces, were the ones going to government offices in provincial towns.

What is left today? Outside the recently liberated town of Khost I saw one telephone pole. It did not have any wires attached to it. If you want to communicate in Afghanistan, you get on a donkey. But in the old days, they only people that used telephones were government dweebs. Therefore there is little incentive to want phones again. The regular folks never used 'em and the government just collected taxes and conscripted young men.

The only working phone line I saw in Afghanistan was across a hill used to connect a mujahedin field telephone.

There are no roads left and no electricity in the provinces. So if you want to know what it was like in the 11th century, go to Afghanistan.

Julian Macassey, N6ARE@K6VE.#SOCAL.CA.USA.NA
742 1/2 North Hayworth Avenue Hollywood CA 90046-7142 voice (213) 653-4495