Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Internet Outage Affects India, Pakistan, Middle East

Internet services have been disrupted in parts of the Middle East after damage to an undersea cable in the Mediterranean. There was disruption to 70% of the nationwide network in Egypt, a government official told Reuters. There was also disruption in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, reported the Associated Press. India also suffered up to 60% disruption, a national industry body told Reuters news agency.

Blogger Masud Reza from Pakistan is reporting that Pakistan is also affected by this outage. Mesud said as follows in his post:
"At approx. 11:30am today, the SMW4 Segment 4 Sumbarine Cable went down due to a fiber cut between Marseille and Palermo due to which the Internet connectivity in Pakistan is severely affected.
At this moment, TWA1 customers are suffering the most. PTCL has switched it's Internet traffic from SMW4 to SMW3.
Let's hope that this fault is repaired soon since degraded Internet service cripples internet for business.
Update: A ship has left Italy for repairing the fault. However, timelines indicated by SMW4 are anywhere from twelve to fourteen days!!"

This latest disruption reminds me of June 2005 outage of ALL Internet access in Pakistan due to damage to the lone undersea fiber optic cable in the Arabian Sea connecting Pakistan with the rest of the world. This cable is owned by a 92-nation international consortium and operated by SingTel, the Singapore telecommunications company. There were satellite link but these links have very limited bandwidth. Even though the number of Internet users in Pakistan is relatively small at about 15-20 million, the impact on business was disproportionate. Traders on KSE reported as much as 80% drop in trading volume from this outage. All call center activities and other BPO vendors were severely affected.

In February 2006, there was another brief disruption when Pakistan’s first undersea fiber optic cable, SMW3, was damaged causing interruption in the country’s Internet and voice traffic. However, there was no breakdown in any part of the country, as the recently-commissioned submarine cable, SMW4, was fully operational. Since then, yet another submarine cable TWA1 has also been added. While the two additional cables have made Pakistan less vulnerable, the growing use and bandwidth requirements in Pakistan will continue to strain these cables, unless additional capacity is added on a regular basis.

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