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Carriers Repairing Middle East Cables

Repairs to the damaged submarine cables in the Middle East are scheduled to be completed over the weekend, while other carriers are moving ahead with a new cable build that will add resiliency to communications in the region.

In its daily update issued Friday morning, FLAG Telecom Ltd. said repairs to both its Europe-Asia and Falcon cables were on track to be completed by Sunday. The SEA-ME-WE4 consortium cable is expected to be up and running again Saturday. Services in the affected countries should be restored by early next week, after almost two weeks of capacity shortage.

There's no word yet on the cause of the disruption to FLAG Europe-Asia and SEA-ME-WE4 in the Mediterranean, but FLAG said yesterday that the section of its Falcon cable in the Persian Gulf between the United Arab Emirates and Oman was cut by an abandoned ship anchor. (See FLAG Updates on Cables.)

The chaos caused by the disruption of four subsea cables within the space of a few days has drawn attention to the development of new cable systems linking the Middle East with Asia and Europe, which have been planned in response to the growing bandwidth demands of the region. (See Subsea Cable Outage Hits Mideast, India, Third Cable Outage Hits Middle East, and Fourth Subsea Cable Down in Middle East.)

Earlier this week, India's Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) announced a consortium of nine carriers has signed a formal construction and maintenance agreement to build the planned I-ME-WE (India, Middle East, Western Europe) cable that will connect India with France. (See Carriers Formalize I-ME-WE.)

The consortium includes United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat , Orange (NYSE: FTE), Lebanon's Ogero , Pakistan Telecommunication Co. Ltd. , Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) , Telecom Egypt , Telecom Italia Sparkle , and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL) (NYSE: VSL).

Telecom Egypt , Etisalat, Saudi Telecom, VSNL, and Telecom Italia Sparkle signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop the cable back in October 2006.

The cable is expected to be operational during the fourth quarter of 2009 and will cost around $450 million. PTCL says it's putting up $50 million, while Telecom Egypt signed a $36 million agreement with the consortium in November.

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) has been awarded the supply contract. The vendor is doing well out of the building activity in the region, having also won deals to supply equipment for Telecom Egypt and Orascom. (See ALU Wins Subsea Deal and ALU Wins Orascom Subsea Deal.)

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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