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SEA-ME-WE 4 Cable Cut, Again

April 01, 2013

SEA-ME-WE 4 Cable Cut, Again

By Gary Kim
Contributing Editor

The Egyptian military has captured three divers accused of cutting a major undersea cable entering Alexandria, Egypt. The March 27, 2013 apparent attack disrupted Internet access for possibly hundreds of ISPs scattered along the cable route.

Whether separate or not, outages rippling east caused disruptions for days before the suspects were apprehended. Outages apparently affected hundreds of networks in Pakistan.  

The South East Asia Middle East Western Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) cable apparently was the target. The SEA-ME-WE 4 cable runs 12,500 miles from France to Singapore, with branches connecting telecommunication companies in Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Tunisia and Algeria.

That is the same cable that was damaged in 2008 by a ship's anchor. That outage cut traffic to the country by 75 percent and had knock-on effects in the Middle East and India.

Today there are over 200 submarine cables buried in the ocean worldwide, creating the backbone of the 21st-century communications network.

In 2013, wireless carriers and dedicated cable installation companies will lay another 12 lines.

Cable cuts have been an issue around the Alexandria cable landing in the past, most notably in 2008, when a ship’s anchor severed a major cable near Alexandria, cutting several cables, including FLAG FEA, GO-1, SEA-ME-WE 3, and SEA-ME-WE 4.

In 2010, the SEA-ME-WE-4 cable also was cut, disrupting service throughout much of Africa.

Cable cuts of this type explain the growing use of route diversity techniques by undersea capacity providers, designed to protect against “single point of failure” threats to service continuity.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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