CAIRO: After dramatic Internet outages that engulfed a large swath of the Middle East and India, a new, more resilient cable is being laid in the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and France, a spokesman for the cable-owner Flag Telecom company said Wednesday.
The company also said that a second repair ship with spares reached a spot north of Egypt, some 8.3 km from the port of Alexandria, where two Internet cables were cut last Wednesday on a segment between Egypt and Italy.
The two cables lying next to one another were identified as Flag Europe-Asia cable, owned by Flag, which stands for Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe, and SEA-ME-WE 4, or South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 cable, owned by a consortium of 16 international telecommunication companies.
The repair on the Mediterranean cut is expected to be completed within six to seven days, Flag said Wednesday.
But even as that cut is being repaired, Flag said it is laying down a new line, the Flag Mediterranean Cable between Egypt and France, that will provide a different route in the Mediterranean and be ”fully resilient” against cuts such as last week’s.
”We are still treating this as a crisis,” a Flag spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with company policy. ”But the new cable will provide a diversity in routes and be more resilient.”
He did not elaborate on what that resilience entailed but said it would take months to set up the new cable.
Last week, Egyptian media reported that state Telecom Egypt ”sealed a deal” for a new 3,100 km-long undersea cable between Egypt and France, that would take over 18 months to complete. The media did not say who Telecom’s partner in the deal was.
On Tuesday, another Flag vessel reached a site in the Persian Gulf, 56 km north of Dubai, between the Emirates and Oman, and begun repairs on the company’s Falcon cable that was cut last Friday.
The two unusual cuts – within two days of one another and involving three cables – led to disruptions in services, slowed down businesses and hampered personal Internet usage.
It was speculated that the cuts were caused by ships’ anchors dragged along the bottom of the sea in stormy weather, but Egypt’s telecommunication ministry said Sunday no ships were registered near the location when the first cut occurred, north of Alexandria.
”The Flag repair team is operating in extreme weather conditions to ensure timely repairs,” the company said on its web site.
The Flag spokesman said the company was still trying to determine how the cables were cut. He declined to comment on whether the two cuts were somehow linked but said he didn’t believe the company was deliberately targeted.
The company has said it was able to fully restore circuits to some customers and switch others to alternative routes.
Most governments in the region appeared to have been operating normally, apparently because they switched to backup satellite systems. Large-scale Internet disruptions are rare, but East Asia suffered nearly two months of outages and slow service after an earthquake damaged undersea cables near Taiwan in December 2006.