Submarine Cables and the Recent Disruption of Internet Service

The Inetrnet outage happened last week affected many of us with slow internet speed or total disruption of service. The two cables FLAG Europe Asia and South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) were cut on the ocean floor just north of Alexandria, Egypt. The Flag Telecom Europe-Asia cable is owned by India’s Reliance Communications, and on the SEA-ME-WE 4 cable, owned by a consortium, disrupted Internet and other communications to India and the Middle East. A large number of customers in India were shifted by their service providers from the Middle East links to Asia-Pacific routes. The new routing led to degradation of Internet service to the U.K. and the East coast of the U.S..

The fiber-optic lines that tie the globe together by carrying phone calls and Internet traffic are just two-thirds of an inch thick where they lie on the ocean floor. The fiber-optic cables that go from Europe to India take the sea route via Suez Canal. The other route from India to Europe goes over China into Russia and along the Trans-Siberian railroad. Whenever a cable line is broken, the traffic is rerouted to a different system. But with two of the three cables passing through Suez Canal was cut, traffic from the Middle East and India intended for Europe was forced to route eastward, around most of the globe, which caused the delay and disruption. [via msn]


It was originally believed that a ship dropping its anchor on the two key cables was most likely responsible for the recent cut. But later the Egypt government said that, there were no ships present when two marine cables were severed. The ministry added that the location, 5 miles from the port of Alexandria, was in a restricted area so ships would not have been allowed there to begin with. Two ships from France and Italy at the request of cable owners are now repairing the cables and expected to restore by this weekend.

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