Collaboration

Severed submarine cables knock out Internet access to tens of millions

Two undersea communication cables were severed on Tuesday, January 29. As a result, Internet access to much of Egypt, as well as parts of India and Saudi Arabia, was disrupted.

Two undersea communication cables were severed on Tuesday, January 29. As a result, Internet access to much of Egypt, as well as parts of India and Saudi Arabia, was disrupted.

One cable was damaged near Alexandria, Egypt, and the other in the waters off Marseille, France. In India, an estimate says that roughly 60 percent of the country's Internet users were affected, although many large companies were able to fall back on backup plans, thus limiting business disruption.

Excerpt from New York Times:

“In some way or another every company took a hit,” said R S Parihar, an executive with the Internet Services Provider’s Association in India. Internet traffic heading east from India was disrupted, and many companies rerouted their Internet traffic to the west instead, he said.

Fortunately, most disrupted communications were quickly rerouted through other cables. Still, the physical damage that resulted in the outage will take several days to fix and could drastically impact the region.

Damage to undersea cables can result from earthquakes or movement of geologic faults, but they are generally rare. They can also result from the dragging anchor of a ship.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

71 comments
Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Just as an update to how the cable breaks are affecting the company I work for. 1. Minimal traffic congestion for all major routes out of the Middle East due to rerouting. Only real and unavoidable issue is the increased round trip delay due to the longer routes. 2. Traffic congestion remains in the Middle East for some countries, especially Bahrain and the UAE including Dubai. 3. Two cable ships have been deployed to fix the cables and the estimated date of repair is to be February 10, weather permitting.

tonoohay
tonoohay

A good starting point for seeing the world of intercontinetal connectivity starts here.......... http://www.telegeography.com/products/map_cable/images/Cable_Map_big.gif ...............interesting map from the leader in researching and markrting such information........... Specific details on the area/submarine connections impacted are here................................ http://www.telegeography.com/cu/article.php?article_id=21528 Cable cuts disrupt internet in Middle East and India Source: TeleGeography's Submarine Cable Map 2008 ................................................... Since my research is totally sourced online I'm just curious 'who' else has observed of paid for more detailed information? My friends in the BCP/Recovery world were not happy to see this online!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

The company I work for as a network field engineer Orange Business Services is working around the clock right now to reroute and setup alternate circuits to deliver service. The outages have affected our MPLS backbone and NOC's that are located in Egypt. It seems that there are major outages approximately every 6 months, the last one I am aware of was a submarine cable near South America and that was 7 months ago. One a smaller note I live in MN and was involved in the rebuilding of the infrastructure that was destroyed when the 35W bridge collapsed. That was small by comparison but involved many long days and nights to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

GSG
GSG

OK, so now we have number 3, this time off of Dubai. It is coincidence that in 1 week, we have 3 cables "break" in 3 different locations, that all affect the same general region? No pun intended, but it sounds "fishy" to me.

david.wallis
david.wallis

i didnt even realise till i heard this that they actually had undersea cables... i thought everything was done by sateillite and ariels etc......... man im naive :)

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Yesterday's news was all over the destruction of teh TAT's (Trans Atlantic Telephon cables)but today they are European cables. Wonder what it will be tomorrow, a Middle Eastern extension cord perhaps?

JCitizen
JCitizen

Wished I had that world map on my wall - the whole wall, I mean.

tonoohay
tonoohay

A financial element I supported had all main, all backup, 60% of the non-dedicated links in a small railroad switching yard in Northern Ill. get sliced to Garbage when a large hauler's triple diesel engines all went off different sides of the track and really "roto-tilled" the roadbed, including all the leased right-of-way buried OS3s.

tonoohay
tonoohay

Here is a Dubai City piece with specifics on location and proximity north of the Port of Alexandria Egypt? Two cables. http://www.dubaicityguide.com/geninfo/news_dtls.asp?newsid=11059 As to intentional distructive actions? Why? There is a serious growth in a world class naval fleet of advanced submarines who's function is stealth and possible intercept of critical communication above and below the surface. And it is not the US or Britain. Fiber Optic glass has made getting any uasble links impossible except at the Regenerating inline hardware. But an old buddy who was a praticing 'spook', BlackOps Intel, mentioned there are maintenance "ports" available with devices that have to be in close proximity to the hardware. Not unlike the maintenance style of the SCADA based devices. Not sure if he ment the option could be there to be a monitor port like a sniffer or analyzer. This gent was one of the cable tapers that penetrated the USSR High Command sub-cable for months back during the COLD-WAR? I'm sure if mankind built, someone knows how to bug it!

JCitizen
JCitizen

An entertaining scenario! Don't worry I am not suggesting this is what you're saying; just a funny idea - and so typical of the Iranians to shoot themselves in the foot.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

The fact that Iran is now completely off the Internet may be the sign of an unherd submarine war, lauched volontarily with the intent to break the operation of submarine cables, using some bad ships and similating accidents caused by their anchors. We heard last year about the impact of an earthquake on a submarine cable linking Taiwan to the content. Could this have given some ideas to some country?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

And those flamin' carrier pigeons! :) Catch that pigeon!!! sorry, if you don't remember that show.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Links by satellite is the last thing you'll use to get responsive internet and fast IP: just think about the distance, even at the light of speed: two times 36000 kilometers minimum from ground to ground already requires 0.24 second. This is a lot, and will not allow large interactive throughput (for example with TCP due to the roundtrip time that is necessarily at least one half second: this would require too huge buffers for high bandwidth). Cable submarines on the opposite, can divide the distance by 10, but at the time of electricity if this is electric cable; today submarine cables use optical fibers, and the signal propagates in the cable medium at more than half the speed of light in air. So this divides the roundtrip time by at about 6 to 10, and so it allows 6 to 10 times faster interactive links. Satellites are perfect on the opposite for unidirectional transmission, where the delay does not matter, because it requires lower levels of energy. But Satellites are not really static, and they are constantly drifting from their normal position as they progressively fall to the earth due to the braking effect of solar wind, earth electromagnetism, rains of thin dust, and upper atmospheric particles: every while, the satellites need to be repositioned by burning their fuel, and when there's no more energy to reposition them high enough to avoid too fast drifts in the sky, they need to be fallen back to earth where they will burn in the atmosphere or fall in some ocean. In addition, satellites get frequently damaged in their solar cells by collisions with all sorts of small rocks (notably when the earth is crossing some clouds left by comets) and high speed orbital dusts left by past satellite launches. When a satellite starts drifting from its position, this phenomenom is accelerating over time, and dishes have difficulties to see the satellite, that are going too low on the horizon (in an area where the atmosphere becomes too thick and really unstable to cross by a low powser signal that will start creating lots of interferences). Satellites are difficult to maintain in good operations for serving countries locating too far from the geographic equator (they may be used for longer time in areas between the tropics). Tha alternative is to use a constellation of satellites, and commuting everry couple of hours from one satellite to another (using motorized satellite dishes to reposition it to the new satellite and follow it in the sky). We highly depend on cables for the Internet. Satellites can just be backup solutions but with high roudntrip time and low interactive throughput (too high for TCP, or even VoIP telephony based on TCP: you need to convert VoIP using streaming not requiring a bidirectional transfer, instead you'll transmit some replicated data to allow autocorrection by the reception site because it will still be much faster than sending a retransmission request after packet losses). Satellites are then perfect for telephony, and TV/radio broadcasting, but not so great for the Internet.

tonoohay
tonoohay

UK brains, Gutta-percha and carrier pigeons? The olde timey stuff just never gets taught. I'm been in client meeting where the whole tech group needed an update on topology and global connectivity. One CIO said that some day the undersea cables will be a thing of past? Have you read the items where as US spy Sat unit is coming back because it's dead! When I did US Comm in Africa we got a brand new satellite off the African coast and all was good until we and others started noting our SatDishes were creeping toward the Horizon? On a HOURly basis? About two months later, SPLASH down! Sea Cable has evolved! F.Y.I..........market views on COMM stuff http://telephonyonline.com/ http://telephonyonline.com/mag/telecom_cables_sea/ _________________________________________ http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1987/2/1987_2_34.shtml Eleven years after Morse’s patent the English succeeded in laying a cable across the English Channel. That cable used another invention fresh out of the patent office: a German cable-coating machine invented in 1847 and first applied to electric cables used for detonating harbor mines. The inventor drew on a new type of insulation, gutta-percha. Gutta-percha, a distant relative of rubber, had just reached the West. It came from an obscure tree that grew only in the jungles of Malaya, Borneo, and Sumatra. Condensation and coagulation of the milky fluid of the tree yielded a rigid, strong material. Water didn’t hurt it. Its insulating qualities even improved in cold, deep water. In fact, its greatest enemies would prove to be sun and air. For the next seventy years nothing could match it for submarine cables. With this basic technology available, people began pondering the possibility of sending messages across the Atlantic. The first to act was a British engineer, F. N. Gisborne, who started with the modest plan of faster communication between the United States and Newfoundland. By getting the latest information to and from European packets stopping at Newfoundland, his company would slash several days off the information transit time. An America-bound message, just off the boat from London, would start south on a telegraph across Newfoundland. A carrier pigeon would cross the Cabot Strait to relay it to a telegraph station on northern Nova Scotia, which would pass it on to New York. ____________________________________________ http://www.underseacable.net/History.htm#TAT August 5th 1858 owned by Cecil Field. The first cable laid in 1858 worked for one month and then died. First telegraph passed through the cable was a letter of congratulation from Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to the President of the United States James Buchanan on August 16. This cable destroyed after one month of operation due to the excessive voltage applies to the cable in order to achieve faster telegraph. p.s. sorry to long on words, in between contracts and the brain needs stimulation? Cabin fever.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Many feel that the expensive of submarine cables is getting prohibitive. I can not see that as the data throughput allowed by them is extraordinary compared to other means. If you are interested, WiKi has some good information about submarine cables, what they look like, and how they lay and/or repair them. Pretty amazing stuff considering all that is required.

tonoohay
tonoohay

TeleGeography may have what you want, PR donation? "Our remote customer support." Anactica, you hopefully have a good path to "the World". So. America is a less that preffered choice, Australia by SATComm or TROPO? Either way stay safe warm, three kids just recently 'double-dared' each other to test the famous licking of the flagpole from a movie and are doing well after being peeled off. I'm sure there is an advisory in your OPS manual disallowing that plactice?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Thank you for the links and information. It puts a very different perspective on what is happening. All I have been hearing that latency is quite bad as some of our routes are now using the long way around the globe.

seanferd
seanferd

Those are some great resources, thanks for pointing to them, both for the situation-specific info and also for the great maps.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

Much good info there. And it explains how come a couple of people in S. Africa have told me they have more power problems than Internet problems right now. LOL. The reports of cutting off Iran and S.A. were apparently incorrect to add FUD.

JCitizen
JCitizen

provided links that, when it comes to marine disasters these incidents don't seem unusual yet. Murpy's law states that any given disaster can and does come in threes. I would say this could be especially true for marine navigation.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

Just because all 3 lines are broken, does not automatically mean that it was intentional. From my understanding, the 3rd one was already unreliable and rarely used. Not to mention the high winds that went through the area. So it may net be any intentional act at all, just a few un-intentional or not well trained anchormen.

tonoohay
tonoohay

Finally made the hardcore activities types. This is 'sit-room', field-execise crowd. Some of the comments added ar not unlike our own mind games. Enjoy, I'm monitoring a group online that has specilties in active deployment to repair sites and disaster recovery for underwriters involved in Marine assets and legal issues. Some body could be seeing a spike in their insurance costing. Think it will be passed onto the user base? Maybe the insurers did it? Kidding!!!!!!!!!! Feb.01,2008 http://www.defensetech.org/archives/003979.html Who's Cutting the Cables? Uh oh, folks! Maybe it is time to be more concerned about terrorists cutting those undersea cables in the Middle East. CNN and the International Herald Tribune both report that, early today (Friday) local time, another cable was cut, this time in the Persian Gulf, about 35 miles off Dubai.

tonoohay
tonoohay

I have a quiet world right now from some online people. Could be "SIT-rooms" all over are brewing gallons of coffee and smoke breakes? I found the comments from justanomad & infowarrior to be 'childish', the CIA would monitor traffic before any disconnect was ordered. The two vessels I found missing are reported in the Red Sea and moving south so that's ok. But the thought a sophisticated Pre-strike effort is not out of the question? One of the Al Qaeda technical gurus grabbed in Pakistan (name slips me right now) was a specialist in Control systems software (SCADA) and had advanced Degrees in such. The Ultra hairy guy they snagged out of bed. So who's to say the technical skills haven't been expanded to vulnerable assets base in the telecom venue. I know outside barrier walls were added to many of the "data center" facilities when Oklahoma City happened, how do you enhance security on millions of miles of cable?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

It seems like the outages are more than unusual circumstances, I have yet to hear of three cables being disrupted in such a short time frame.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I would assume that the ports you refer maybe associated with the repeaters that are spaced at the fiber optics length limits. My question has always been how they power those repeaters as there is never any reference to power in the same cable. I just have assumed that there were ancillary cables laid at the same time.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Seeing as people are now saying it`s not anchors that are taking out these cables but some sort of intentional force, it is in the USA`s favour to do so as well. The USA really took the terror fear issue to the next level when they wanted to invade Iraq. By instilling this fear of a repercussing 911, they were able to gain support needed to invade even though the rest of the allied countries has requested proof of WMD etc. blah blah not that again. If USA people cut the cables or arranged as much by other means, it would instill a need to keep those offshore jobs (especially from Dubai) in the USA. The jobs being lost to the Middle East has been an issue of great concern by a lot of people for a few years now. Also, they would be smarter to cut European links than to cut the Trans Atlantic cables that the USA relies on also, just enough to create some questions and show an instability. The only problem is that if the GOVERNMENT did it, the governent was also the one who permitted and promoted such offshore systems to American corporations. It would be more plausible if it were a third party. And while conspiracy is in the cards, perhaps it is a way to give reason to begin more invasions. Why not , you aleady burned yoru bridges and have gone too far for the world to ever forget the mess the USA made. Perhaps som esympathy suport by allied nations is in store. Conspiracies are fun, you can offer the most radical and illogical reasoning based on myths and guesses. Now if we are going to discuss ``facts`` we`ll have to wait until there are facts to discuss before coming up with contorted theories towards the plotting of the world`s baddies, that we don`t understand enough to offer such specualtion anyway.

olavi
olavi

TCP/PP CP over pidgeon protocol

JCitizen
JCitizen

here on TR. I should tune into BBC on satelite more often and see if I can catch any reruns. HA! As if they do such reruns. Hey! PBS does Monty Python - why not?!

tonoohay
tonoohay

There is an excellent History Channel Docu- Drama regarding the first undersea cable. I saw it a long time age, and I think it was a BBC of CBC creation because it had that 'dry' British humor to it. One item on the Carrier Pigeons was they became unreliable and were replaced by an RF Radio spark-gap system. Then there was a side bar piece were the local gentle-man in Canada (who's father and friends where alive back then) said the business type were thinking that some one was intercepting the message traffic so they started sending multiple birds in groups to "mix-up" the scoundles? Truth may have been that locals had no idea what these tender morsels were doing flying over their farm country daily at about the same time, but they were well fed and tasty!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I would be curious as to what the HF frequency was? Us Hams use 14-21MHz and have quite regular connections across either ocean. On a good solar even day we even can get several skips and communicate to the Far East region. 40ft yagi, whew my 3 element yagi pales in comparison. I suspect your was a great deal higher than mine is as well. Interesting technology and it consumed my life before the computer revolution.

tonoohay
tonoohay

And the SUN has a very good time zapping those pesky satellite gadgets spinning around. So much so that JPL(Jet Propulsion Lab) and others(MIL Spec) have specialists on staff and retainers just to give Heads-Up when mission critical activities could be affected. One of the scrubs on NASA launch has it's bases regarding Sun Spot/Solar Winds involvement. While supporting a US Prez in the Mid-East, many years ago, our SatCOM was loosing sync on critical encryption channels, so we made adjustments in our HF links to shoot east from Africa toward the Continental US in our 40 foot yaggis (east not west), around the world, power was about 7KW (our max was 10kw) and the net was up. Naval Electronics Lab near San Diego modeled the whole thing up. Sun Spots again? The bird later went for a snorkle off the South American coast. Satelites don't work well under water?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I agree with most of what you mentioned. The problem as I see it is, if solar particles and radiation are strong enough, they will affect more than just RF propagation. It has the potential to physically damage electronic components. I agree that would be a rather significant solar event, but the potential is there. Especially since this solar year is already more active than normal.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Yes the effect of solar activity can produce huge electromagnetic effects in the upper atmosphere, notably in the area where boreal auroras are forming. But such effect in the electronic components in satellites can be largely avoided by using protection screens. It will however affect the radio signals sent and received by satellites, but not on all its frequencies at the same time. Can't this bad effect be palliated by using parallel transmissions over several bands, to avoid for example the electromagnetic pollution that occurs on high atmospheric gas ? I don't think that all the high speed charged particles in the solar wid will pollute the whole radio spectrum, instead their effect will be localized in some bands, depending on the energy of the solar particles, their relative speed compared to earth, and the force of their impact on the high atmospheric particles. But may be, near the poles, the effects of the earth magnetic field will create an accelerator loop for these particles that will create their own huge magnetic fields, but not on all the radio spectrum. I think it will mostly affect thespectrum near the X ray bandwidth and ultraviolets, not sure about all the bands used by satellites, and not sure that this will affect the much lower frequencies used by airplane communications systems. It may however seriously affect the operations of radars and navigation instruments.

seanferd
seanferd

I was given to understand that it actually works *better* in water. Dentists use this stuff also, as an adhesive. Trans-Atlantic cables: Wasn't the first one a failure, and the second killed shortly after completion when an operator jacked up the voltage (more is better, right?).

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

When I was in Nova Scotiam they were just loading the ships with teh coils to bed down across teh atlantic (think it was Sprint canada, A&TT at the time). The Discovery Channel filmed teh whole thing, so I'm sur ethey have vid somewhere if you want to dig around. It's not teh kaibosh most people think it is, in fact it's a massive feat that many are completely unaware of. Now that deregulated crown corporations are no longer in the telecom business, who lays down the rail pipes at an affordable cost though? Increasing THAT infrastutructure will certainly move our computing speeds up a bit, however until it is feasible I think we'll have to wait for new technology.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I just like huge maps like that for reference. I used to have a wall sized map for pipeline control; I get spoiled fast.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

yesterday I received 2 emails from someone in S. Africa. However there has been nothing coming through on the Aloe Groups from S.A for several days.

tonoohay
tonoohay

Iran (for) what ever good is on the BGP and global addresses. They are are heavy firewall user. router1.iust.ac.ir (194.225.239.1) Now China loves for its people to use what the world has to offer. And they have some world class capture and filtering equipment. When devine leaders activate the closure of 'bad' users, they know specifically who! The Olympics are lovely this time of the year!

tonoohay
tonoohay

Most correctly said PhilippeV, thanks.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

100% packet loss with South Africa too. This time I have doubts that this is a political decision (but may be some damages currently occuring with the link from the Middle-East through Kenya, such as power losses?)

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

100% packet loss in Iran, that apparently has no other backup link... Or is it something that was ordered by US in some local (unmediatized) retaliating decision to not offer backup solutions to Iran by US corporations maintaining links in the Middle-East? I also see that Google has decided to boycott Iran Telecom website from its search results (reported as trying to install badware on their visitor's PC, notably spywares, traffic monitoring, and agents trying to limit your bandwidth); Note that Iran has forced its ISPs to limit the Internet bandwidth for all their users to 128kbps max,and to install proxies or firewalls (censorship on parts of the Internet). That's a lot of incidents related to Iran... I also see that the link from Iran to India is overloaded, and this seems to affect the connection of the rest of the world with India (important packet loss levels) which still remains safe with its links through China or Russia, but possibly limited with the link through the Middle-East or though Indian Ocean to Africa (but South Africa has half of its fastest connection also affected) Really something is getting bad in the Middle-East, and it looks like the problem is escalating.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Don't mix domain names please. internettraffic.com is just a domain that has been taken over by some advertizing parking operated by cybersquaters (that just want to get pay-per-click on their pseudo portal with ads but offer no added value and no content by themselves). So link instead to http://www.internettrafficreport.com/

tonoohay
tonoohay

Right now Asia looks as bad as So. America? The analysis crews are having their skill levels tested right now I'm sure because a lot traffic will be end-of-month stuff or just normal cyclic data for the shared software project networks. Some of the IT types my path has crossed always seem to do planning and scheduling updates around the month transitionals? And whether people want admit it or not there is a ton of traffic link to the Asian-Pacific corrador. Some of the other logged-only(it'l cost ya) tracking on BGP or specific vendor paths are spiking(not badly) or have packet delays up.