Repairs Start on Mediterranean Telco Cables

PARIS — Work began on Sunday to fix submarine cables under the Mediterranean suspected of being cut by a ship’s anchor, disrupting Internet and international telephone service in parts of the Middle East and south Asia.

Experts arrived at the site of the damage between Sicily and Tunisia on a cable ship at 1330 GMT on Sunday.

They sent a remotely operated submarine robot to track down the cables, a spokesman for ship operator France Telecom said.

“The robot has begun its mission,” Louis-Michel Aymard said, referring to the France Telecom Marine “Hector” vehicle.

The damage at about 0730 GMT on Friday to the SEA-ME-WE3, SEA-ME-WE4 and FLAG cables, owned by different consortiums, caused varying degrees of disruption from Zambia to India and Taiwan.

The situation had improved in India, Singapore and Reunion by Sunday at 1500 GMT, the France Telecom spokesman said.

The Egyptian government reported that more than 80 percent of its Internet capacity had been restored, although there remained some “tangible impact on call centers.”

It was unclear how long it would take the robot to locate the cables as the anchor suspected of causing the damage may have dragged them several kilometers (miles) from their normal positions, the spokesman said.

The robot would bring the affected parts aboard the “Raymond Croze” ship for repairs to be carried out in a special facility before putting them back at the bottom of the sea.

France Telecom expected to have repaired SEA-ME-WE4 by December 25 and SEA-ME-WE3 by the end of the year. The French company is not part of the consortium owning the FLAG cable, which would be repaired by another cable ship.

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