Four international cable breaks in a week

4 Feb 2008

An undersea fibre-optic cable has gone out of service between Qatar and the UAE, the fourth such incident in less than a week. On Friday the Qatar-UAE Submarine Cable System was ‘cut’ between the Qatari island of Haloul and the UAE island of Das, disrupting internet services. ArabianBusiness.com was told on Sunday by unofficial sources that the problem is related to a power system and not a physical break in the cable, as is thought to be the case in three international incidents earlier in the week.

Flag Telecom, part of India’s Reliance Communications, reported earlier on Friday that its Falcon cable was cut between the UAE and Oman at 06.00 GMT. According to Flag, a repair ship is expected to arrive at the site of the damage, at a location 56km from Dubai, today or tomorrow, and the repairs should take five days.

These two incidents followed damage to two major international submarine cables linking Europe, the Middle East and Asia last Wednesday. Breaks on Flag Telecom’s Europe-Asia cable and the consortium-owned SEA-ME-WE 4 system disrupted internet and other communications in the Middle East and South Asia. Following delays due to bad weather, a repair ship is expected to reach the damage site, 8.3km from Alexandria, Egypt, by tomorrow. The repairs will take around a week to complete. Contrary to earlier reports that the two cables were cut by ship’s anchors, Egypt’s Ministry of Communications has stated that no ships were present when connections were severed.

New cable construction should help to prevent such outages in the future, according to TeleGeography Research Director Alan Mauldin, who notes that ‘many new cable systems are slated to enter service between Europe and Egypt in the next few years, including Telecom Egypt’s TE North cable, Orascom’s MENA system, the IMEWE consortium cable, and a new cable by Flag Telecom.’ Telecom Egypt recently announced a USD125 million deal with Alcatel-Lucent to build the planned 3,100km TE North system linking Sidi Kerir in Egypt to Marseille in France, to provide capacity of 128×10Gbps on eight fibre pairs.