Repairs to undersea cable will begin Tuesday

BANGALORE, INDIA – Repairs to a damaged undersea telecommunications cable between Egypt and Italy won’t start until Tuesday and will take a week to complete, according to the cable operator.

Flag Telecom said a repair ship should reach the site of the damage, 8.3 kilometers from Alexandria, Egypt tomorrow. Breaks last week in the Flag Telecom Europe-Asia cable, owned by India’s Reliance Communications, and on the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) cable, owned by a consortium, disrupted Internet and other communications to the Middle East and India.

Flag said the Europe-Asia cable was cut at 8 a.m. GMT last Wednesday. The company also said it was able to restore circuits to some customers and was switching to alternative routes for others.

A large number of customers in India were shifted by their service providers from the Middle East links to Asia-Pacific routes. But the new routing increased the time-lag heard on long-distance telephone calls, and also led to degradation of Internet service to the U.K. and the East coast of the U.S., said Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of India (ISPAI).

Some analysts said that consumers and smaller customers were suffering even as providers tried to meet their service-level agreements (SLAs) with large corporate customers.

The Indian government announced late last Thursday that Indian service providers, including members of the SEA-ME-WE 4 consortium, are in constant touch with Telecom Egypt to ensure the speedy repair of the SEA-ME-WE 4 and Flag cables connecting India to Western Europe. Repairing this type of submarine optical fiber cable typically takes 15 days, but the Indian ministry of communications and information technology expects this link will be completely restored within 10 days.

Another submarine Internet cable owned by Flag Telecom, the Falcon cable between the United Arab Emirates and Oman, was cut on Friday at 6 a.m. GMT, some 56 kilometers from Dubai. A repair ship has been notified, and is expected to arrive at the site of the damage in the next few days, the company said.

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