Telecom Crews Start Cable Repairs in the Middle East

Authorities consider foul play as the number of undersea cable cuts rises to five in the last week.

FLAG Telecom, owner and operator of several thousand miles of fiber-optic cable in the Middle East, is busily laying new undersea cable to replace lines that were cut in two places in the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria on Jan. 30 and in a third location two days later in the Persian Gulf.
Two more cuts were reported this week along the same route-another in the Persian Gulf (mostly affecting Iran) and one much further east, just off the coast of Malaysia. FLAG also is preparing to repair those cables, it said on its Web site.
The heavy-duty cables carry financial transactions, Internet traffic, voice communications and dozens of other kinds of data from North America and Europe to the Middle East, and as far away as India.
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.

To read more about the cut undersea cables, click here.

Flag Telecom, the owner-operator of the cable, currently is part of the Reliance Group, India's second-largest telecom.
Internet connectivity in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and parts of western India have been cut off or seriously impaired since the incident began on Jan. 30. The repairs probably will take 10 to 12 more days to fully repair. Most of the data traffic has been re-routed, AT&T told eWEEK.
The cause of the damaged cables was still unknown Feb. 7, but AT&T and a consortium of other telecom companies are working with international authorities to determine what exactly is happening in these cases.
Some authorities suspect foul play, since the cuts are fairly deep underwater and the cables require powerful tools to damage. Media spokespersons at AT&T, Sprint Nextel and Interpol all told eWEEK that the outages look very suspicious but offered no other observations.
"We haven't officially been called in on these cases yet, but if a local law enforcement jurisdiction calls about a possible international crime, we'll certainly want to offer any help we can give," a spokeswoman for Interpol's Washington, D.C.'s office told eWEEK.
Michael Coe of AT&T in New York told eWEEK Feb. 7 that "it does not appear that we were impacted" by any of the five outages. Sprint Nextel also said its traffic was unaffected.
"Things were already looking awfully suspicious when a fourth undersea cable was cut yesterday, and while nothing about a fifth cable being cut necessarily means some sort of sabotage is to blame, it's not exactly reassuring," wrote Paul Miller of the Web site Engadget, which tracks Internet-related news.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...