By Dylan Bowman
UPDATE 2: UAE and Qatari telecom operators say measures being taken to limit disruption.
Damage to three major undersea cables seriously disrupted more than half of internet and phone services between Europe, the Middle East and Asia on Friday, with India, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates the worst affected, France Telecom said.
The telecom operator said initial estimates show 82 percent of service to India was disrupted, while 73 percent of service to Qatar and 68 percent to the UAE was affected.
Around 50 percent of service to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt was also disrupted, it said.
"The causes of the cut, which is located in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia, on sections linking Sicily to Egypt, remain unclear," France Telecom said in a statement on its website.
The company said a ship set off in the early hours of Saturday morning to fix the lines, but that it would not arrive until Monday and that it could take until Dec. 31 until normal service was restored.
UAE telecom Etisalat said it had taken "precautionary measures to ensure the flow of internet services", state news agency WAM reported, citing a company statement.
"Etisalat was able to use alternative routes shortly after the disruption of the three international cables, thereby ensuring the continuity and smooth flow of internet services in the UAE," the statement said.
Du, the UAE's second telecom, said it had re-routed data and international voice traffic east through alternative cable systems.
"The top 50 voice destinations are now unaffected and only 15 percent degradation overall remains. Internet capacity is reduced but again additional capacity is being activated to the east which will restore performance to more normal levels," the company said in a statement. Qatari telecom Qtel said loss of capacity in Qatar was being kept below 47 percent and the country "is only experiencing limited effects".
"Qtel’s network of alternative transmission routes and back-up cables has ensured that Qatar has remained connected," the company said in a statement.
However, it did warn users might experience some slowdown in internet speed and access problems until the cables were repaired.
Kuwait's Ministry of Communications said the damage had affected internet service and some international communications in the Gulf state, state news agency KUNA reported.
The ministry said it had "contacted local, regional and international parties to secure communications' alternatives to provide the service".
France Telecom spokesman Louis-Michel Aymard was quoted by newswire AFP as saying the cuts were unlikely to be an attack. He said the cables could have got caught up in trawlers' nets or there could have been an underwater landslide.
Aymard said one of the cables seems to have been severed, while the other two seem to have been only partially cut.
The cables are jointly owned by several dozen different countries. One of the cables is 40,000 km long and links 33 different countries while a second is 20,000 km long and serves 14 states.
In January, five cables in the Middle East and Europe were cut, causing severe internet disruption across the Middle East and Asia.
The internet connection is so awful , I cant do a thing online yesterday been trying to get a 4mb file and it took me an hour , and normally it takes me sec's to get it . Just hope they'd fix it asap
When it is in tune we are unable to understand the importance of the technology. It is beyond our imagination of such massive cable connection under the sea miles after miles and it is quite normal it may disrupt by any reason.We have to keep our patience realising the fact.
It appears that is another instance of intentional damage to the users of Internet and Telcom Services. Instances are repeated that triggers security check periodically mostly as a preventive maintainance rather that breakdown service. Institutional users - students and faculty have been greatly disabled esp at the time of final exam time where internet use is high for project assignment research.
It's a little scary to think that the bandwidth of the entire middle east hinges on a couple of cables coming in through Egypt. Any plans to start implementing some backup lines?
The company said a ship set off in the early hours of Saturday morning to fix the lines, but that it would not arrive until Monday and that it could take until Dec. 31 until normal service was restored. 1/1/2009: Still waiting. Happy New Year to all. :)
These service interruptions have been happening all the time I have been in the UAE, be thankful at least now for some reason they become known immediately. A few years ago Etisalat used to spend a week or two strenuously denying there was any problem while my business was going down the tubes through lack of connectivity. You actually had to get strong with the poor IT guy on the other end of the tech support phone to get the truth, I think they were told not to admit anything, Strange, since they don't offer any refunds anyway! In developed countries like UK/USA, fast business internet connections come with contractual guarantees from the ISP of 99.9 pct uptime, or otherwise a refund system is in place.