Internet connectivity in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that was cut off or seriously impaired Jan. 30 by cuts to two undersea cables in the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria likely will take 12 to 15 days to fully repair, eWEEK has learned.
The cause of the cable damage was still unknown on Jan. 31, but AT&T and a consortium of other telecom companies were working with international authorities to determine what exactly happened late on Jan. 30.
Patrick Yu, an AT&T media relations staff member in Hong Kong, wrote eWEEK via e-mail that the two cables are about a quarter-mile apart. One is operated by SEA-ME-WE-4 the other by Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co., which is United Arab Emirates' second-biggest mobile-phone company, according to Yu.
"We have confirmed the fault location to be approximately 12.334 Km from Alexandria" in the Mediterranean Sea," Yu wrote.
"FLAG [Fiber-optic Link Around the Globe, a consortium of telecoms] has confirmed a sub-sea cable was cut at 8.3 kilometers" from a utility manhole on Alexandria beach, Yu said. This is in a similar location" to a cable cut reported earlier at 12.334 km, he wrote.
"FLAG has contacted its marine repair agency and is [processing permit applications] for the repair. Current estimate will be between 12 and 15 days for the cable repair to be completed," Yu wrote. Later in the day Yu confirmed that the necessary repair permits had been granted. But it will be Feb. 4 before the telecom consortium will be ready to start the repairs, he said.
"FLAG and SEA-ME-WE4 have activated their emergency repair process,'' EIT said in an e-mailed statement. "Given the proximity of the two systems, it is likely that one ship will do both repairs.''
EIT estimates that the cable disruption has reduced Web and telephone access in the affected regions to half capacity. The two cables carry about 70 percent of Egypt's voice traffic to the West, according to Yu.
Countries most directly affected are Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Yu wrote.
"All traffic is being re-routed, so no one has been cut off, but might be experiencing some network congestion," Yu wrote.
Michael Coe, an AT&T media relations officer in New York, told eWEEK that "two undersea cables were cut. Multiple carriers use them. The consortiums are working to repair them," he said.
"AT&T was impacted on some routes in the Middle East, but the traffic is being re-routed," Coe said.
AT&T officials had no explanation for what could have caused the cable cuts at two separate locations.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information from AT&T and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co.