Posted by: h4ck@lyst | February 1, 2008

Severed cables disrupt internet

Internet services have been disrupted in large parts of the Middle East and India following damage to two undersea cables in the Mediterranean.

There was disruption to 70% of the nationwide network in Egypt, and India suffered up to 60% disruption.

UK firms such as British Airways have told the BBC that call centres have been affected by the outage.

Industry experts said it could take up to one week to repair the damaged cables and resume full service.

International telephone calls, which have also been affected, are being rerouted to work around the problem.

‘Degraded performance’

Disruption also occurred in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, reported the Associated Press.

In Dubai, at least two internet service providers (ISPs) were affected.

An official at the provider, DU, told AP that a fault in a network between Alexandria, Egypt, and Palermo, Italy, was to blame.

DU issued a statement to alert customers to “a degradation in internet services and international voice calls for some customers during peak times”.

The company said it was due to “cuts in two international submarine cable systems in the Mediterranean Sea this morning (Wednesday).

“We are working actively with the submarine cable system operators (FLAG Telecom and SEA-ME-WE 4) to ascertain the reasons for the cables being cut,” it said.

FLAG Telecoms operate the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG), a 28,000km (17,400 mile) long submarine communications cable.

SEA-ME-WE 4, or the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 project, is a submarine cable system linking South East Asia to Europe via the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

Repair work

Neither of the cable operators have confirmed the cause or location of the outage but some reports suggest it was caused by a ship’s anchor near the port of Alexandria in Egypt.

One Indian internet service provider, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), linked the problems in India to the disruption in Egypt.

“Information technology companies, software companies and call centres that provide online services to the UK or the US east coast are the worst affected,” Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of India, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

India is the world leader in offshore outsourcing, with the remote servicing of IT or other business processes worth an estimated £24bn.

AFP also reported disruption to telecommunications in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Egypt’s Telecommunications Ministry said it would probably take several days for internet services to return to normal following the disruption on Wednesday.

Emergency teams were trying to find alternative communication routes, including satellites, AP was told.

The ministry’s Rafaat Hindy said: “Despite this being an international cable affecting many Gulf and Arab countries, we are closest to it and so we have a lot of responsibility.

“We are working as fast as we can.”

Operations outsourced to India from the UK and US are badly hit, said an industry body, adding that 50% of India’s bandwidth was affected.

Egypt has about 40% of its internet capacity, following damage to a cable thought to be off its northern coast.

It could take a week or more to restore full services, say experts.

Further disruption has been reported in Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

‘Bad delay’

India is the world leader in offshore outsourcing, with the remote servicing of IT or other business processes worth an estimated £24bn.

“The companies that serve the US east coast and the UK are worst affected,” said Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of India.

He told the Associated Press (AP): “The delay is very bad in some cases.

“They have to arrange back-up plans or they have to accept the poor quality for the time being until the fibre is restored.”

Major companies including IBM and Intel were still trying to assess how their operations had been impacted, AP reported.

An official in Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said that the cause of the cable damage would not be known until repair ships and divers could get to the site.

Rough seas and weather were delaying that operation, he said, adding that the repairs could take as much as a week.

‘Two cuts’

On Wednesday, a Dubai internet service provider (ISP), DU, blamed services disruption on “cuts in two international submarine cable systems in the Mediterranean Sea”.

The company said: “We are working actively with the submarine cable system operators (FLAG Telecom and SEA-ME-WE 4) to ascertain the reasons for the cables being cut,” it said.

FLAG Telecoms operate the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG), a 28,000km (17,400 mile) long submarine communications cable.

SEA-ME-WE 4, or the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 project, is a submarine cable linking South East Asia to Europe via the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

Neither of the cable operators have confirmed the cause or location of the outage but some reports suggest it was caused by a ship’s anchor near the port of Alexandria in Egypt.

There was disruption to 70% of the nationwide internet network in Egypt on Wednesday, while India suffered up to 60% disruption.

International telephone calls, which have also been affected, are being rerouted to work around the problem.

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