CAIRO: Service on FLAG Europe-Asia cable – which along with cuts in two other cables had disrupted internet and international phone services in some parts of the Middle East and South Asia – would be restored by Tuesday, said Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT)
“Repairs on the cable were completed on Monday and [the operating company] is currently running tests on it, said Mohamed Hanafy, press officer at the ministry. “The cable is expected to retrieve its full capacity within 24 hours, which would improve internet services in Egypt.
Work on the other two cables is still pending and could last to the end of the year. “Egypt s internet capacity will be fully restored early next week when these two cables get fixed, Hanafy said.
Breaks in three submarine cables under the Mediterranean are suspected to be caused by a ship s anchor; however, operating companies have not confirmed that yet, he added.
The undersea cables – owned by different consortiums including France Telecom – were damaged between 09:28 and 10:06 Cairo local time on Dec. 19. The damage caused varying degrees of disruption from Zambia to India and Taiwan.
The disruption reduced Egypt s internet capacity by about 80 percent. Based on the ministry’s latest statistics, around 12 million Egyptians use the internet. Residents told Reuters internet service was either non-existent or very slow. Several Egyptians said at the time that it was impossible to call the United States but calls to Europe appeared to be going through.
The ministry said in a statement released on Dec. 21 it did not receive complaints from financial institutions in the country about any disruption to their performance.
Sources at the Egyptian Stock Exchange said the internet blackout did not disrupt trading because the exchange uses a built-in system that does not connect through the internet. But there remains some tangible impact on call centers, the ministry’s statement said. According to international reports, the cuts caused Egypt to lose around 66 percent of its voice traffic.
Work began on Dec. 21 to fix the submarine cables. “More than 85 percent of Egypt s internet capacity has been restored so far, Hanafy pointed out.
France Telecom expected to have repaired SEA-ME-WE4 by Dec. 25 and SEA-ME-WE3 by the end of the year.
“Repairs on SEA-ME-WE4 were already completed but when they [France Telecom] tested it, they found some problems with the power release. It could take up to 3-4 days to have it up and running again, Hanafy explained.
The SEA-ME-WE4 is 20,000 km long and links 14 countries, running from France through the Red Sea to India and then Singapore. SEA-ME-WE3 is 40,000 km long and links 33 countries. It runs from northern Germany to Spain, the Red Sea, India and Southeast Asia, from where two branches extend as far as Australia and South Korea.
FLAG Europe Asia (FEA) is 27,000 km long and runs from Britain through the Red Sea to India, Southeast Asia and Japan.
The outage in December was the second time this year. In January, breaks in undersea cables off the Egyptian north coast disrupted internet access in Egypt, the Gulf region and south Asia, forcing service providers to reroute traffic and disrupting some businesses and financial dealings.
The ministry said last week that contacts would be made with the owners of the cables and the relevant authorities about the appropriate compensations .
“Compensation would be based on causes of the breaks, Amr Badawy, executive chairman of National Telecom Regulator Authority (NTRA) said on Monday.
“We are still waiting for the final reports explaining the causes of the damage, Hanafy added, explaining compensations will be sorted out between the operating and insurance companies.
“Last time, we [Egyptian government] paid compensations because the breaks occurred in Egyptian water, but it’s different this time because the damage took place in international water near Italy.