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Mediterranean cable cut disrupts Middle East internet (again)

20 Apr 2010

The current outage of the SeaMeWe-4 submarine cable follows only two years after a series of submarine cable outages in January and December 2008. These cable failures vividly demonstrate how dependent the Middle East is on a small number of undersea cables for international connectivity. Only three cables — SeaMeWe-3, SeaMeWe-4, and FLAG Europe-Asia — link the Middle East to Europe. Since these three cables follow similar paths through the Mediterranean, they are vulnerable to some of the same physical threats.

The route from Europe to the Middle East has also suffered from a shortage of spare, unlit, capacity. At year-end 2009, 85% of potential capacity on the route had been lit, leaving little room to accommodate traffic growth. Moreover, just one cable, SeaMeWe-4, accounts for 89% of currently lit capacity on the route, leaving operators with few options for restoring service in case of an outage.

The good news is that this bottleneck will soon be eliminated. Five new cables are scheduled to enter service between Europe and Egypt in 2010. The first two, Telecom Egypt’s TE North cable and the IMEWE consortium cable, will enter service in May. Orascom’s MENA cable, the Europe India Gateway consortium cable, and Reliance’s FLAG Hawk cable are all expected to follow before year-end 2010. ‘These cables will more than double lit capacity between Europe and Egypt,’ explained TeleGeography Senior Analyst Paul Brodsky. By year-end 2010 SeaMeWe-4 will account for only about 40% of lit capacity between Europe and the Middle East, allowing service providers to diversify their cable routes, and improving service restoration options.

TeleGeography’s Global Bandwidth Research Service provides the most detailed analysis of the long-haul network and submarine cable industry available — including supply, demand, costs, and pricing analysis and profiles of 272 network operators and 228 submarine cables.

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