Published on December 20th, 2008 | by Babar Bhatti0
Undersea Telecom Cables Damaged: Outages In Pakistan, Asia
Just when things seemed to be going well, we have yet another outage and this time the repair time line is unknown. Other than Pakistan, India, Middle East and Taiwan are hit. This is getting a lot of media attention (see this Gizmodo post). Dawn reports:
Internet service and call center operations in Pakistan suffered fluctuation on Friday night after at least two of the four undersea optic-fibre communications cables were damaged, officials said.
They said initially a fault was reported in the Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-3 (SEA-ME-WE-3) optic-fibre link near Alexandria (Egypt). It was fixed within a ‘few hours’.
“Later, we were informed that the cable of our second undersea fibre link called SEA-ME-WE-4 had been damaged,” said Sikandar Naqi, Senior Executive Vice President, Corporate Development and Special Projects, of Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL), the country’s only internet backbone provider.
“The damaged cable is 1,800 nautical miles away from our seashore and an exact timeframe cannot be given for its repair.”
However, he said the country had four links from different routes, the PTCL was relying on undersea fibre cable from Singapore and there was no major complaint of service disruption.
The SEA-ME-WE-3 link has suffered second disruption in less than three months. In September, it developed a fault near the same area of Alexandria.
In 2005, severe damage to the country’s only link had caused an internet blackout for a week.
Officials of PTCL argued that now alternative solutions to the problem were available and there was no ground to get concerned.“We have the capacity to cater for the overall demand of bandwidth in the country from any link,” said Mr Naqi. “Secondly, we don’t see the problem staying for long. The situation will become normal within the shortest possible time.”
However, members of the industry relying mainly on internet service complained that the problem was more serious than it was in September because a majority of the call centres were not getting the required level of bandwidth.
“Call centres and software houses are facing serious problems,” said Wahajus Sairaj, Convenor of the ISPs Association of Pakistan (ISPAK).
“The alternative provided by the PTCL has not met satisfactorily the needs of the corporate users.”
Agencies add: Internet service between Europe and the Middle East was disrupted after three cables linking Egypt and Italy failed in the Mediterranean Sea, according to a French company which manages the cables.
The situation may not improve before Christmas and communications may not return to normal until Dec 31, a spokesman for Reliance GlobalCom said. “We know three cables have been cut. We still don’t why or where. They cover all the Middle East and India and other countries.
“We have no more information. A ship has been sent to locate the place where the cables were cut,” the spokesman told reporters.
Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported that the cuts happened off the coast of Sicily at 0800 GMT.
Reliance GlobalCom directed a submarine cable repair company to head to the region to fix the cables.