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Undersea cable breakdown hits Internet-based services

Sandeep Joshi

NEW DELHI: The booming Indian information technology sector, mainly business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, and some international long distance and Internet service providers have been affected due to a major underwater cable breakdown in the Mediterranean sea. The snag has led to disruption in Internet and communication networks. As tension gripped BPO firms, service industry and individuals due to the snag in their Internet connections and ILD services, the Centre swung into action on Thursday and contacted the three main service providers affected — the Tata-owned VSNL, Reliance and Bharti Airtel Ltd — to take stock of the situation. Reportedly, more than 50 per cent ILD and Internet capacity remained down in the country following the cable damage.

In a statement, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said the three companies were in constant touch with Telecom Egypt to ensure speedy repairs to the two cables connecting India to Western Europe and the U.S.

“Normally the repair of such type of submarine optical fibre cable takes 15 days. However, it is expected that the links will be completely restored by the ILD operators within 10 days by expediting the repair,” it added.

The cable snag occurred near Alexandria, off the coast of Egypt, on Wednesday, affecting ILD and Internet traffic to Europe and the U.S. Besides India, traffic in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia was also affected. Though the ILD operators shifted the circuits to other marine cables falling in the Pacific region, the extra load on this route has resulted in a slowdown of Internet and communication traffic.

“Out of total links working on these cables, approximately 30 per cent links are restored and efforts are being made on a war footing for providing an alternative path to remaining links,” the Ministry said. According to the Internet Service Providers Association of India president Rajesh Chharia, IT companies and call centres that provide online services to the U.K. and the U.S. were the worst affected.

Though some of them were re-routing through the Pacific as a backup, the voice quality and speed of traffic would be highly degraded, he added.

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