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Pakistan’s Internet Usage Jumps as People Stay Home

by Staff Report

File photo. Arif Ali—AFP

PTA attributes 15 percent jump in internet usage to coronavirus-prompted online activities such as working from home, video conferencing

Pakistan’s telecommunications regulatory body on Thursday announced that the country’s internet usage had risen by 15 percent in one week, as more and more people stay at home amidst lockdowns designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“A net increase of around 15% in internet usage was witnessed since last week as the country fights against coronavirus,” the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said in a press release. “The increase has been observed due to increased online activities by educational institutions and businesses and, ‘work from home’ policy adopted by individuals and organizations,” it added.

Seeking to allay concerns about internet speeds and bandwidth, the PTA said there was sufficient capacity to meet the growing demand. “There is sufficient internet capacity available in the country to meet the growing demands of the future. PTA has been closely monitoring the internet usage patterns so as to ensure that fast and efficient telecom services remain available to the consumers in this difficult time,” it said.

Part of this increase is no doubt attributable to government offices and politicians moving to video conferencing for meetings in a bid to encourage social distancing and avoid leaving their homes. Just this week, opposition parties held a conference call to discuss the strategies on how to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. The State Bank of Pakistan has also encouraged the use of digital payments and e-banking to avoid unnecessary visits to banks.

Also on Thursday, media streaming website Netflix announced it had removed the highest bandwidth streams in Pakistan to reduce traffic so that more users can avail the service. In a statement, VP Content Delivery at Netflix Ken Florance said: “Given the crisis, we’ve developed a way to reduce Netflix’s traffic on telecommunications networks by 25 percent while also maintaining the quality of our service. So consumers should continue to get the quality that comes with their plan—whether it’s Ultra-High, High or Standard Definition. We believe that this will provide significant relief to congested networks and will be deploying it in Pakistan for the next 30 days.”

In a subsequent series of posts on Twitter, the PTA said that cell phone operators had sent “13 million awareness messages” about coronavirus to their subscribers in one day alone. “Since March 19, more than 366 million awareness messages have been sent on PTA’s directions in English, Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi and Pashto,” it added.

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