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Egypt has only 40% Internet after cable break
Source: BI-ME and Reuters , Author: BI-ME staff
Posted: Mon February 4, 2008 12:00 am

EGYPT. Egypt had less than half its Internet capacity available on Thursday because of breaks in two undersea cables that have also affected the Gulf region and South Asia.

The connections were disrupted off Egypt's Northern coast on Wednesday, slowing or stopping Internet access for users across parts of Asia, and forcing service providers to reroute traffic.

Egyptian Telecommunications Minister Tarek Kamel said his country's Internet capacity would reach 45% to 50% by the end of the day.

"Capacity will be increased to 75% in 48 hours at the most through alternative cables and satellites," he added, at a signing ceremony for a new cable linking Egypt and France.

"Now nearly everyone is connected, but by different degrees. Only call centers still have serious problems."

He said it would take at least a week to fix the breaches, which are in segments of two intercontinental cables known as SEA-ME-WE-4 and Flag.

India, home to three companies that have stakes in the cables, said in a statement: "It is expected that the links will be completely restored by the.....operators within ten days".

The International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC), an association of 86 submarine cable operators dedicated to safeguarding submarine cables declined to speculate on the cause of the breaches. "Investigations are still going on," a spokesman said.

Egypt said it did not know if weather had been a factor. Storms forced Egypt to close the Northern entrance to the Suez Canal on Tuesday, making ships wait in the Mediterranean.

The ICPC says more than 95% of transoceanic telecoms and data traffic are carried by submarine cables, and the rest by satellite. A single pair of optical fibre strands can now carry digitised information equivalent to 150 million simultaneous phone calls.

One of the biggest disruptions of modern telecoms systems was in December 2006, when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake broke nine submarine cables between Taiwan and the Philippines, cutting connections between southeast Asia and the rest of the world.

Internet links were thrown out in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines, disrupting the activities of banks, airlines and all kinds of email users.

Traffic was rerouted through other cables, but it took 49 days to restore full capacity.

While most cable operators say there is enough spare capacity in the network, the ICPC has urged governments around the world to be more aware of its strategic and economic importance when deciding whether to issue permits for the laying or repairing of cables in their waters.

In the Gulf rergion, the problems have been prolonged at least up to 5 February by subsequent cable breaks and some residents said their Internet connections were working at slow speed, while others still had no workable access to the web. 

The digital blackout disrupted Egyptian financial market operations on Wednesday. Gulf Arab countries and India are also reporting significant disruptions to Internet connectivity, bringing problems for the media, Internet and telecom companies.

Kamel said the US$125 million submarine cable deal signed on Thursday by state-controlled Telecom Egypt and France's Alcatel-Lucent would boost network service in the most populous Arab country.

India's Bharti Airtel and VSNL are among the partners in the SEA-ME-WE-4 consortium, and Reliance Communications has a share in the Flag cable.



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