CAIRO: Up to 80 percent of Egypt’s internet capacity was restored Sunday morning, two days after breaks in underwater cables in the Mediterranean brought the regional information highway to a standstill.
The breaks, possibly caused by a ship’s anchor, also hit the internet and international telephone services in other parts of the Middle East and South Asia.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said in a statement late Sunday that it has not received complaints from financial institutions or the stock exchange about disruptions in international communications. Business proceeded “almost naturally, said the statement.
However, Egypt’s outsourced call centers were severely affected by the snail-paced internet access.
MCIT Minister Tarek Kamel said the breaks in six cables for international internet services is “unprecedented.
The underwater cables are located approximately 200 kilometers south of Italy in the Mediterranean. Three of the cables travel between Italy and the Middle East, two between Italy and North Africa and one between Italy and Malta.
The cables, which include Flag Global Network, SEAMEWE 4 and SEAMEWE 4, were cut off simultaneously resulting in an outage that extended beyond the region.
Kamel said in a television interview that the outage had major repurcussions as it affected internet access in India, the Gulf States, Pakistan and Southern Europe.
On the other hand, international telephone calls weren’t affected as they’ve been diverted to alternative routes through cables in South Asia and through satellite, according to MCIT.
Kamel immediately formed an emergency team to work on solving the severe technical problem which began at around 10 am Friday.
They have diverted internet traffic to alternative routes that travel through South Asia which managed to gradually bring back the service.
According to the press statement, the international company, MECMA, which specializes in fixing fiber optic cables, has been assigned to resolve the matter.
The emergency team is awaiting reports from MECMA’s repair ships which have been sent to the location in order to identify the reasons behind the cuts in the cables.
The ministry said the repair work may take up to a week.
The emergency team will not be able to decide on possible compensation to internet subscribers.
The National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA), Egypt Telecom and internet service providers in Egypt are waiting for the final reports from the Italian authorities and corporations which own the cables to explain the reasons and justifications behind the cut-off and determine if there would be possible compensation.
This is the second internet outage to hit Egypt this year. The first one was last January and was also due to a failure in the cables Flag Global Network and SEAMEWE 4.
At the time, the MCIT ordered compensation to be given to internet subscribers for the service disruptions.
ADSL subscribers were not charged for January’s service and dial-up users were not charged for the month’s calls.
According to the ministry, the TE-North, connecting Alexandria to Marseilles, France, is under construction. Egypt Telecom, the company responsible for the cable, will finish working on it in nine months.
The NTRA has also authorized two Egyptian companies to build two sea cables to provide alternative routes, the ministry said.