Feb 2

Jesse Robbins

Jesse Robbins

Failure Happens: Transcontinental fiber-optic submarine cables

The Guardian published a summary of the ongoing impact from the transcontinental fiber-optic submarine cable cuts along with a map from

According to reports, the internet blackout, which has left 75 million people with only limited access, was caused by a ship that tried to moor off the coast of Egypt in bad weather on Wednesday. Since then phone and internet traffic has been severely reduced across a huge swath of the region, slashed by as much as 70% in countries including India, Egypt and Dubai. [...]

"It will depend on how bad the damage is, but they'll find the sections in question and bring them up onto a ship for repair before sinking them again," said Mauldin. "It could take a week or possibly two weeks."

The fibre optic wires in question - called Flag Europe-Asia and Sea-Me-We 4 - are some of the most vital information pipelines between Europe and the east. The latter, which runs in an uninterrupted line from western Europe to Singapore, had only recently been opened after a mammoth £500m, three-year installation project. Between them, the two lines are responsible for around 75% of all connectivity in the Middle East and south Asia.


"The problems are really at pinch points where increasingly huge amounts of information are coming through," said Jim Kinsella, chairman of Interoute, Europe's largest fibre optic network provider. He said that improvements are scheduled for submarine cabling, but that plans to send more internet traffic over land connections rather than under the sea had been set back by political wrangling.

Renesys, a network Monitoring provider, has been posting analysis of the impact country-by-country

[...] These systems provided much of the capacity into the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent from the west. Although some countries were hurt more than others, the loss of connectivity was extensive and very widespread. Some countries and a few providers were almost completely knocked off the Internet. As Day 1 came to a close, it was clear that the damaged cables were not going to be repaired anytime soon and the impacted parties would have to look for alternatives to waiting it out.

Day 2 and 3 saw a frenzy of activity as local providers in the region tried to broker agreements with anyone who still had capacity. They were under intense pressure to restore service to local governments and businesses. In turn, global and regional providers with surviving capacity into the region were busy hunting for new customers. We definitely had a seller's market. At Renesys, we watched all of the activity with great interest and decided to wait until the end of Day 3 to report on the winners and losers, after the initial deals were made and things had settled down to some degree.


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Comments: 9

  john allspaw [02.02.08 07:16 PM]

Thanks for the post, it's a great overview of the whole thing.

  Mike Ashworth [02.03.08 12:58 AM]

Great Analysis.

I wonder too, if all these guys who specialise in Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity etc., who make site visits and point out problems with access card readers at offshore sites, even have any idea of the picture of cables that was just posted.

Every Company (and especially those who offshore) should be carrying out geo-political risk assessment's on a regular basis and ensuring that this cabling is included in the mix.

Imagine if your entire Business Model could be ruined by a few cables being severed, such is the way that data being transported about, is what many companies USP is all about. Even a slowdown of data transport could ruin a Company's reputation.

Mike Ashworth
Business Consultancy
Brighton and Hove, UK

  Hjalmar Gislason [02.03.08 02:29 AM]

More than anything this emphasizes the need for a redundancy in the connections from Europe to Asia.

I believe there is a big opportunity for a new cable across the Arctic region.


  Brian Push [02.05.08 10:00 PM]

Very impressive how many (and especially how big they are) cables are laying on the ground. until now i allways thought the most connections are made via satelite. thanks for en"light"ing me.

  Avneet Chadha [02.07.08 06:41 PM]

Wow That blackout must have left alot of people starving, Causing accidents, and people might even die since they can't see.

  Ahmed [02.16.08 10:27 PM]

Excellent Analysis yes, however I live in Egypt and nobody in this side of the world believes that 4 cable lines got cut within days of each other for the first time in history "accidentally" by a ship. The chances of that happening by "accident" is a mere 0.1%???

Conspiracy Theories anyone???

  sezer [04.12.08 09:37 PM]

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  Tony Heywood [05.15.08 07:36 AM]

That’s a nice article and it always useful to get such a well researched and written overview of the whole thing. I found you via the placing you received in the The VoIP-News Top 25 VoIP Blogs of 2007. I am fairly new to VOIP but personally I have always found Interoute a joy to work with. They currently supply our secure business voip network.

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