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Mediterranean cable break disrupts communications with Asia

Internet service is disrupted more than 50 percent across the entire Middle East. The outages are caused by two submarine cable systems in the Mediterranean Sea which were cut, apparently by accident by ship anchors. India suffered up to 60 percent disruption, while 70 percent of the nationwide network in Egypt is down, news agencies reported.

Similar shortages occurred in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. “It’s a national disaster,” said Joseph Metry, network supervisor at Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, the biggest mobile- phone company in the Middle East and North Africa, as quoted by Bloomberg News.

The cable system which was cut somewhere 5.2 miles from Alexandria beach in northern Egypt was co-owned by several companies, among which AT&T Inc., the biggest U.S. phone company, and Verizon Communications Inc., the second-biggest U.S. phone company. Customers of both companies were affected.

Currently, telecommunications companies are rerouting traffic through other connections which will lead to congestions at peak hours.

“There has been a 50 to 60 per cent cut in bandwidth,” Rajesh Chharia, the President of Internet Service Providers Association of India confirmed to India Today.

Repairs may take up to two weeks. It is still unknown what actually happened, because undersea cables are very strong, shielded with several layers of steel.

“Despite this being an international cable affecting many Gulf and Arab countries, we are closest to it and so we have a lot of responsibility,” said Egyptian telecommunications expert Rafaat Hindy to AP. “We are working as fast as we can.”

A modern undersea or submarine communications cable is made up of a core of optical fibers, shielded with multiple layers of copper, aluminum, polycarbonate, stranded steel wires, Mylar and polyethylene. The first undersea cables were used for telegraph and were laid in the second half of the nineteenth century. As of 2003, submarine cables link all the world’s populated continents.

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