Third Undersea Internet Cable Cut in Middle East

Disruptions of this kind threaten modern business models.

The third major deep-sea Internet and telecom cable outage in two days hit the Middle East Feb. 1, this time in the Persian Gulf.

The outages have caused widespread disruption in both Internet and telecommunications voice traffic, and threaten to disrupt Internet-based business models the world over.

The cuts in the fiber-optic cable located in the Gulf off Dubai reportedly disrupted Web and voice access for customers using India-based cable network operator Flag Telecom, a company spokesperson told Reuters.

Service for most customers was rerouted to other cables, but slowdowns in service were widely reported, an AT&T spokesperson told eWEEK.
FLAG (Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe) is a 28,000-kilometer-long submarine communications cable containing optical fiber that connects England, Japan and many places in between. The cable is licensed by a consortium of telecoms.
The cause of all three cuts was still unknown on Feb. 1, but AT&T and other members of the consortium were working with international authorities to determine what exactly happened.
"We're monitoring the situation, and have only seen a very minor impact on AT&T customers from this third incident," AT&T Media Relations Manager Michael Coe wrote eWEEK in an e-mail Feb. 1.
David James, a connectivity analyst with Ovum, wrote in his blog, "Despite their [the consortium's] best efforts, we can expect this accident to affect a large number of carriers and ISPs, who are reliant on the damaged cables, and this will in turn affect their enterprise and consumer customers in India, Southern Asia, the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, in Europe."
Although there is a certain amount of routing diversity and some "spare" capacity on alternative routes, it does take time to reroute traffic through undamaged cables, James wrote.
Not all digital data traffic is affected by outages like these.
EDS, a global provider of IT and communications systems in 65 countries, told eWEEK that the company has had no known interruptions of service to any of its clients around the world as a result of the Middle East disruptions. EDS, based in Plano, Texas, owns and operates its own private fiber-optic network to carry financial, medical and other business information around the world, Ray Thietten, EDS vice president of global networks, told eWEEK.
"We've been getting lots of calls this morning about this, but only two reports of service problems," Thietten said. "And both of those involved parts of the network that were out of our control."
EDS' Global Services Network is the common physical platform for connecting all its Fortune 500 clients to about 500 EDS locations globally, Thietten said. "We do not rely on the public Internet for transmission of data or client information to countries around the globe," he said.
EDS' network is completely redundant, with an MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) backbone, Thietten said. "Geographically, we go from the Americas over into that area. If there is any kind of disruption on our network, we would quickly reroute all the data around the other side of the world-through our Pacific cable to the Far East," Thietten said.
Fiber-optic cable is the only way to go with the kind of traffic EDS supports, Thietten said. "Satellites are too slow," he said.

Flag Telecom, the owner-operator of the cable, currently is part of the Reliance Group, India's second-largest telecom. Flag Telecom said in a statement on its Web site that its FALCON cable had been reported cut at 0559 GMT, 56 kms (about 35 miles) from Dubai on a segment between the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Two deep-sea cables located about a quarter-mile apart in the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria, Egypt, were damaged Jan. 30, disrupting Internet connectivity and voice traffic in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They likely will take 12 to 15 days to fully repair, eWEEK learned.

Interpol did not respond to e-mail from eWEEK asking whether foul play might be involved.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...