Cable outage slows Mideast traffic

Internet traffic in the UAE has been disrupted for nearly a week, after a subsea cable system failed.
The SEA-ME-WE 4 cable is scheduled to be repaired in the next couple of days, putting an end to the traffic disruption.
The SEA-ME-WE 4 is one of only three cable systems linking the Middle East to Europe, and accounts for 89% of the lit capacity on that route. The other two cables 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 suffered an outage last Wednesday when seawater penetrated the insulation of a cable link, causing a short circuit.
Traffic was re-routed through the 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 TeleGeography said. And since all three take a similar route through the Mediterranean, they are at risk from the same environmental threats.
The cables are also filling up, with 85% of potential capacity on the routes taken.
But five new cables are scheduled to enter service between Europe and Egypt in 2010, helping to alleviate the problem, TeleGeography added. By the end of the year, SEA-ME-WE 4 will account for just 40% of lit capacity between Europe and the Middle East.
The operators involved in the SEA-ME-WE 4 consortium are Algerie Telecom (Algeria), Bharti Infotel (India), BSCCL (Bangladesh) CAT Telecom (Thailand), Etisalat (UAE), France Telecom, MCI (UK), Pakistan Telecom, SingTel (Singapore), SLT (Sri Lanka), STC (Saudi Arabia), Telecom Egypt, Sparkle (Italy) Telekom Malaysia, Tunisie Telecom and VSNL (India).