More cable outages in the middle east
BY Johannes Ullrich  /  2008-02-01

“According to news reports, a third undersea cable to the middle east
got cut. The third cable cut today was less important then the other
two, but it was one of the systems used as a “backup” during the last
few days. On Wednesday, two cables off the coast of Egypt got cut.
Today, one more off the coast of Dubai was cut. Of course, three cuts
in such a short time may look suspect. But don’t forget that you have
“cascade failures” where backup systems go down due to overload once
the primary system goes down. The cable that went down today wasn’t
used much in part as it was known as less reliable. These cable cuts
are in particular challenging as repair times are long (weeks) and
there is little extra capacity. Other technologies like Satellites do
not provide the same capabilities as cables. Connectivity to and from
the Middle East as well as India is severely affected. Availability
and disaster recovery planning is a frequently neglected security
function. Newcomers to the security field are frequently attracted by
“cool exploits”. But the true professional usually knows that boring
and tedious tasks like disaster recovery planning will frequently save
the business in the end.”

New cable cut compounds net woes

A submarine cable in the Middle East has been snapped, adding to
global net problems caused by breaks in two lines under the
Mediterranean on Wednesday. The Falcon cable, owned by a firm that
operates one of the previously damaged cables, was snapped on Friday
morning. The cause of the latest break has not been confirmed but a
repair ship has been deployed, said owner Flag Telecom.

Following the earlier break internet services were severely disrupted
in Egypt, the Middle East and India. “The situation is critical for us
in terms of congestion,” Omar Sultan, chief executive of Dubai’s ISP
DU, told The Associated Press, following the most recent break.

Wednesday’s incident caused disruption to 70% of the nationwide
internet network in Egypt on Wednesday, while India suffered up to 60%
disruption. Flag Telecom said a repair ship was expected to arrive at
the site of the first break – 8.3km from Alexandria in Egypt – on 5
February, with repair work expected to take a week. A repair ship
deployed to the second break – 56km from Dubai – was expected to
arrive at the site in the “next few days”, the firm said.

Web returns

The first cable – the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) – was
cut at 0800 on 30 January, the firm said. A second cable thought to
lie alongside it – SEA-ME-WE 4, or the South East Asia-Middle East-
West Europe 4 cable – was also split. FLAG is a 28,000km (17,400 mile)
long submarine communications cable that links Australia and Japan
with Europe via India and the Middle East. SEA-ME-WE 4 is a submarine
cable linking South East Asia to Europe via the Indian subcontinent
and the Middle East.

The two cable cuts meant that the only cable in service connecting
Europe to the Middle East via Egypt was the older Sea-M-We 3 system,
according to research firm TeleGeography. The firm said the cuts
reduced the amount of available capacity on the stretch of network
between India and Europe by 75% percent. As a result, carriers in
Egypt and the Middle East re-routed their European traffic around the
globe, through South East Asia and across the Pacific and Atlantic
oceans. The cause of the break has still not been confirmed. The third
break is unlikely to disrupt commerce in the region as many business
are closed on Fridays. Initial reports suggested that it could have
been snapped by a ship’s anchor.

Internet service providers said they expected India’s to be back to
about 80% of its usual speed by the end of Friday. In Egypt Minister
of Communications and Information Technology Tarek Kamil said he
expected to be at the same capacity within two days. “However, it’s
not before ten days until the internet service returns to its normal
performance,” Kamil told the state Al-Ahram newspaper.

Mediterranean Cables Cut, Disrupting Communications
BY Camilla Hall  /  Jan. 30 2008

Internet and telephone communications across the Middle East and India
were disrupted after two submarine cable systems in the Mediterranean
Sea were cut.

Six ships were diverted from Alexandria port and one may have severed
the cables with an anchor, said a spokesman for Flag Telecom Group
Ltd., which operates one of the cables. The incident took place 8.3
kilometers (5.2 miles) from Alexandria beach in northern Egypt, the
spokesman, who asked not to be named, said in an interview from
Mumbai, India. India and countries across the Middle East experienced
slow Internet connections and problems making international calls to
the U.S. and Europe, the spokesman said. The break will take 12 to 15
days to fix, he said.

“It’s a national disaster,” said Joseph Metry, network supervisor at
Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, the biggest mobile- phone company in the
Middle East and North Africa. The problem is affecting all Egyptian
Internet users, Metry said in a phone interview from Cairo. The ships
were diverted because of bad weather yesterday, he said. Yesterday’s
bad weather conditions were felt in bordering Israel today, where
public transportation, schools and most businesses in Jerusalem shut
down, leaving the streets empty of traffic as the city braced for as
much as 20 centimeters (8 inches) of snow.

Rerouting Traffic

Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co., the United Arab Emirates’
second-biggest mobile-phone company, is working with the cable
operators, Flag Telecom and SEA-ME-WE 4, to find out why the cables
were cut and to determine when service can be restored, the company,
known as du, said in an e-mailed release. “In the meantime, du has
already started transferring Internet and international voice traffic
through other cable systems that have not been affected, although some
congestion may be expected at peak times until this issue is
resolved,” the company said in the statement.

Customers of AT&T Inc., the biggest U.S. phone company, have been
affected, spokesman Michael Coe said. While the company is rerouting
its clients’ traffic, it anticipates congestion since other carriers
are doing the same thing, he said. He didn’t know how many customers
were affected. San Antonio-based AT&T is part of the group that owns
the cable, Coe said. AT&T had $4.7 billion in corporate sales last
quarter, or 27 percent of total revenue.

Repair Costs

Verizon Communications Inc., the second-biggest U.S. phone company,
said some customers have been affected by the cable break. The New
York-based company is switching those clients to other network routes,
said Verizon spokeswoman Linda Laughlin. Verizon also co-owns the
cable as part of a group with several other carriers, and the
companies pay regular maintenance fees that will cover the cost to
repair the cable, Laughlin said. She said she didn’t know how many
clients were affected.

“We’ll try to move customers over as soon as we can,” she said.
While it’s rare for undersea fiber cables to break, they can come
apart when geographic faults move, Laughlin said. Verizon’s corporate
sales unit, which provides phone and Internet service to multinational
corporations, had sales of $5.4 billion last quarter, or about 23
percent of overall revenue.

`Degraded Speed’

Bahrain Telecommunications Co., which holds the franchise to provide
all of Bahrain’s public telecommunications, said in an e- mailed
statement that “Internet services will still be available but at a
degraded speed during peak hours.” Batelco, as the company is known,
advised customers to give more priority to applications such as
browsing and e-mail, which consume less bandwidth than actions such as
file sharing.

“The interruption in the service is beyond Batelco’s control but
repair work is already under way by the providers and it is
anticipated that full services will be resumed soon,” Batelco
Corporate Affairs General Manager Ahmed Al Janahi said in the

Egypt’s Ministry of Telecommunications “has formed an emergency team
to bring back the service quickly through several alternative paths
such as the Suez Canal and satellite links,” according to a statement
broadcast on Egyptian television. The cables are not easily broken so
there must have been a “huge hit,” Orascom’s Metry said.

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