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Subsea Cable Cuts Hit Euro/Asia Route

Ray Le Maistre

For the second time in less than a year, damaged subsea cables have hit major voice and data transport connections between Europe and Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.

In late January and early February this year there was massive disruption to communications traffic as a result of damaged cables in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. (See Carriers Repairing Middle East Cables, Subsea Cable Outage Hits Mideast, India, and Third Cable Outage Hits Middle East.)

Now it's happened again. According to Orange (NYSE: FTE), three submarine cables -- Sea-Me-We 3 , Sea-Me-We 4, and the FLAG Telecom cable, which is owned and run by Global Cloud Xchange –- were cut in the Mediterranean between the island of Sicily and the north African country of Tunisia. The cut cables link Sicily with Egypt.

France Telecom, which is a stakeholder in the two Sea-Me-We (southeast Asia, Middle East, Western Europe) cables, says the cause of the cuts are unclear. The carrier is launching one of its repair ships, which should be "on location on Monday morning for a relief mission."

Priority will be given to Sea-Me-We 4, which should be back in full operation by Dec. 25, and then to Sea-Me-We 3, which should be up and running again by the end of the year.

France Telecom says traffic between Europe and the Middle East and Asia/Pacific has been affected, and most traffic is currently being rerouted through the U.S.

In terms of the impact on voice traffic, the French carrier says the worst affected countries are the Maldives (100 percent outage), India (82 percent), Qatar (73 percent), Djibouti (71 percent), United Arab Emirates (68 percent), and Pakistan (51 percent).

Reliance Globalcom could not be reached, but according to a report from Bloomberg the carrier doesn't currently have a timescale for its cable to be restored.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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12/5/2012 | 3:24:47 PM
re: Subsea Cable Cuts Hit Euro/Asia Route
Will sea cables become a target for terrorist and pirates?
12/5/2012 | 3:24:41 PM
re: Subsea Cable Cuts Hit Euro/Asia Route
You would hope these cables are in places where ships rarely go and are deeper than the length of most anchor chains or buried in the sea floor.

If SEA-ME-WE 4 is supposed to be redundant, why would it be close enough to 3 to be taken out by the same anchor?
12/5/2012 | 3:24:41 PM
re: Subsea Cable Cuts Hit Euro/Asia Route
Not sure about the whole pirate situation, but terrorists could well look at such disruptive activity, though it seems at the moment they can leave all the dirty work to ships' anchors....
12/5/2012 | 3:24:36 PM
re: Subsea Cable Cuts Hit Euro/Asia Route

Echelon is getting lazy, damaged the cables while tapping them.

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