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Broken underwater cables sever global communications

updated 05:25 pm EST, Fri December 19, 2008

Asia cut off due to break

Broken underwater cables sever global communications International Internet and phone communications have been severely affected between Europe, the Middle East and Asia due to a break in three underwater optical fibre cables, according to a Friday BBC News report. The three cables normally carry 90 percent of phone and Internet traffic to the Middle East and 65 percent of traffic to India, with services to Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Taiwan and Pakistan also taking a big hit. Experts warn the disruption will have serious consequences on regional economies.

Thus far, the cause of the break is unknown, though seismic activity was reported near Malta shortly before communications went down. The report states the FLAG FEA, SMW4, and SMW3 lines are severed, which are located near the Alexandria cable station in Egypt and run across the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. France Telecom said it is unclear what caused the break, but it sent out a ship to fix the line between Italy and Egypt, though the fix could take until December 31st. A fault was also reported on the GO submarine cable located about 80 miles away from Sicily. Interoute manages part of the optical fibre network.

While the issue does not directly affect North America, access to certain websites based in the affected regions may be restricted or unusually slow.

The same lines off the Egyptian coast were also broken earlier this year, prompting many in the industry to express concerns over its safety. If the fourth cable breaks before repairs can be made, there will be a total communications blackout of the Middle East, the report maintains.

By Electronista Staff


  1. WalterC

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2008


    Not uncommon

    Likely intentional. Google the subject and you'll sense a pattern of cable disruption in the Med and Indian Ocean. Cables are not hard to find as they are charted to deter commercial fishing in their area.

  1. Hillbilly Geek

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2006


    Didn't Michael...

    ...Chrichton write a novel about this?

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007



    Now who do you think might have the resources (submarines) and the inclination to be testing whether they can black out communications throughout the entire Middle East?

  1. rytc

    Senior User

    Joined: Jan 2001



    If anyone is to blame it is the US, their disregard for the rest of world makes them the prime candidate.

  1. Peter Bonte

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2001



    I think its fairly easy to cut these cables, a powerful fishing boat could do the job accidentally or intentional.

  1. das

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2001



    Once again, the idiotic conspiracy theories rear their heads. No, this was not the US. Not one undersea cable expert believes this was intentional, nor did they last time there were outages affecting the mideast region.

    An undersea cable outage (due to a physical cut, equipment failure, ocean conditions, or other issue) happens on average once a week, and sometimes a confluence of events can lead to multiple failures and widespread outages.

    There are flotillas of ships that do nothing but repair undersea cables. This conspiracy theory came up the last time we had undersea cable outages affecting the mideast, and if that's what you want to believe, nothing will be likely to change your mind.

  1. gor3don

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2005


    re: rytc

    Yes, the Russians and Chinese are shining beacons of humanity to the rest of the world.

    What a moron.

  1. macnixer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2006


    All the conspiracy theory

    will not help. The fact is the cables are down. What are the alternatives. Frankly it is time the world was connected through a different route - Alaska, Russia, China, Singapore etc. And the fallback should be repurposing and using the Iridium satellites.

    Whether the cables are broken by seismic activity, or by trawlers or intentional a good business would always try to look at alternatives with a good disaster recovery plan.

  1. lowededwookie

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008


    Slightly misleading

    Typical Americans, you just learn about a few countries then find out there are actually even more countries.

    I can assure you that none of this has affected New Zealand where I live and I've heard nothing about this from Australia so I'm picking most of the Southern Hemisphere wasn't touched by this outage.

    This all leads to the point that the outage wasn't GLOBAL because for that to happen the entire WORLD would have to have been taken down.

  1. WalterC

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2008


    Conspiracy Theory

    Read-up on: Operation Ivy Bells

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