North Africa, Asia Recovering From Internet Outage

— India’s Internet services were operating at about 80 percent capacity on Friday after breaks in undersea cables disrupted Web access, and normal services could be restored in a week, an industry official said.

The undersea cable connections were disrupted off Egypt’s north coast on Wednesday, affecting Internet access in the Persian Gulf region and south Asia, and forcing service providers to reroute traffic.

India’s booming outsourcing industry, which provides a range of back-office services like insurance claims processing and customer support to overseas clients over the Internet, played down the disruption, saying it had backup plans in place.

Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of India, said service providers were diverting Internet traffic to ensure no disruption in services.

“I would say 70 to 80 percent of the Internet services are operating normally now. It will take about a week to bring the services back to normal,” Chharia said.

“Though we will continue to see some latency, there won’t be any chocking in Internet access that we saw in the last couple of days.”

He said cable repair ships had already been sent to fix the breaches, which are in segments of two intercontinental cables known as SEA-ME-WE-4 and Fiber-Optic Link Around The Globe (FLAG).

A spokesman for FLAG Telecom in Mumbai has declined comment on the restoration of operations, but Punit Garg, CEO of FLAG, said on Thursday the cable breaks would not cause any revenue loss to the company.

“Where the cable cut has happened, we are building a new cable over there, which is the FLAG Mediterranean cable, which will connect Egypt to France,” Garg told an investor conference call.

“So in the future we will see that FLAG will have a fully redundant and resilient network,” Garg said. “For our enterprise customers, that [connectivity] is being taken care of through the restoration on other alternate hubs.”

FLAG is a wholly owned subsidiary of India’s No. 2 mobile operator Reliance Communications, and it operates a cable network of 65,000 route kilometers connecting the U.S., Europe, Middle East and Asia.

“Connectivity has been restored to a large number of our customers,” said a spokesman for ISP Videsh Sanchar Nigam, an internet service provider.

No Complaints

Officials at outsourcing firms in India said many had alternate networks and traffic was automatically routed to a different link in the event of a breakdown.

“We have not heard of any customer complaints so far because of this,” said a spokeswoman for HCL Technologies, which offers IT solutions and back-office services.

The International Cable Protection Committee, an association of 86 submarine cable operators dedicated to safeguarding submarine cables, says more than 95 percent of transoceanic telecoms and data traffic are carried by submarine cables, and the rest by satellite.

U.S. phone companies Verizon Communications and AT&T both use the affected cables. AT&T said on Thursday its networks were already back to normal as it had rerouted traffic, and Verizon expected service to be restored for all its customers in a matter of days.

Investigations into what caused the break are continuing, but storms were affecting the area at the time.

One of the biggest disruptions of modern telecom 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 e-mail users.

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

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