Friday, December 19, 2008

Mediterranean Cable Cut Disrupts Europe-Asia Traffic

Internet and telephone communications between the Middle East and Europe were disrupted after three submarine cables between Italy and Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea were damaged, according to Bloomberg. France Telecom SA, which plans to send a maintenance boat to fix the problem, said the situation should be back to normal by Dec. 31.

Three cable systems carrying more than 75 percent of traffic between the Middle East, Europe and America have been damaged, according to the U.K.'s Interoute. The cables run from Alexandria in northern Egypt to Sicily in southern Italy. In January, an anchor severed the cables outside Alexandria after bad weather conditions forced ships to moor off the coast.

``The information we have is a bit sketchy, but chances are that it will have been an anchor again,'' Jonathan Wright, Interoute's director of wholesale products, said in a telephone interview. ``Close to 90 percent of all the data traffic between Europe and the Middle East is carried on these three cable systems,'' Wright said.

A January 2008 cable cut off Egypt brought down 70 percent of the Internet network in India and the Middle East.

Vodafone Group Plc's Egyptian unit is among service providers affected by the cable failure.

France Telecom's Orange mobile-phone unit said the cable failure ``greatly disturbed'' the traffic between Europe and parts of Asia. At one point as much as 55 percent of voice traffic in Saudi Arabia, 52 percent in Egypt and 82 percent in India was out of service, according to Orange.

Internet traffic from Mumbai to London now has been re-routed via Hong Kong which may lead to congestion and increased latency on this route,'' Reliance executives said.

The fault is affecting the SMW4 cable near the Alexandria cable station, the FLAG FEA cable and the SMW3 cable system.

Reliance Globalcom doesn't know exactly what happened, but there will be suspicions of an anchor snagging the cables.

The SMW4 cable, also known as SEA-ME-WE 4or South East Asia- Middle East-Western Europe 4 cable network, connects 12 countries: Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy and France.

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