Cable outage slows Mideast traffic

Dylan Bushell-Embling
20 Apr 2010
Daily News

Internet traffic in the Middle East has been disrupted for nearly a week as a result of an electrical failure on Sea-Me-We 4.

The cable is one of only three linking the Middle East to Europe, and accounts for 89% of the lit capacity on that route. The other two are Sea-Me-We 3 and FLAG Europe-Asia.

Sea-Me-We 4 is operated by a consortium of 16 different operators from Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

It went off the air last Wednesday when seawater penetrated the insulation of a cable link, causing a short circuit.

Traffic was re-routed through Sea-Me-We 3, but the reduced capacity has slowed transmission speeds significantly. Because of the location of the outage, the UAE-based Etisalat's domestic operations were particularly hard-hit.

A repair ship sent to fix the damage has arrived at the scene, and should complete the job sometime between today and Thursday.

The service disruptions highlight how dependent the Middle East region still is on a small number of subsea cables, research firm TeleGeographysaid. Since all three cables take a similar route through the Mediterranean, they are at risk from the same environmental threats.

The region went almost totally offline in early 2008 when three cables went down in just three days.

The existing cable systems are also close to the end of working life, with 85% of potential capacity on the routes taken.

Related content