CAIRO, (Reuters) – Breaks in three submarine cables which link Europe and the Middle East have disrupted Internet and international telephone services in parts of the Middle East and South Asia, officials said on Saturday.
The disruption reduced Egypt’s Internet capacity by about 80 percent. Technicians were restoring some capacity by diverting communications traffic through the Red Sea, said a Communications Ministry official, who asked not to be named.
Residents said Internet service was either non-existent or very slow. The gravity of the outage, caused by breaks in cables in the Mediterranean off Italy, varied from area to area and according to the service provider.
In Pakistan, Internet service provider Micronet Broadband said its customers were facing degraded Internet services because of “issues” on the SMW-3, SMW-4 and FLAG lines.
In January, breaks in undersea cables off the Egyptian coast disrupted Internet access in Egypt, the Gulf region and south Asia, forcing service providers to reroute traffic and disrupting some businesses and financial dealings.
Several Egyptian residents said late on Friday that it was impossible to call the United States but calls to Europe appeared to be going through.
In Pakistan, Micronet engineer Wajahat Basharat said on Saturday Internet traffic was congested and slow and some of it was being diverted to other routes.
The International Cable Protection Committee, an association of submarine cable operators, said it was “aware of multiple submarine cable failures in the Eastern Mediterranean area that may be affecting the speed of Internet communications on some routes.”
It said in a statement on its website it did not know what had caused the problem.
Stephan Beckert, an analyst with the U.S.-based telecommunications market research firm TeleGeography, said the three affected cables were the most direct route for moving traffic between Western Europe and the Middle East.
“If those three cables were cut and are completely out, it would be a fairly significant outage,” he said. “It is going to cause problems for some customers. It’s certainly going to slow things down,” Beckert said, adding that he did not believe financial institutions would be hit hard. “Generally speaking we find that they are extremely painstaking about making sure that they have redundant capacity,” he said.
Officials with AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications, the two largest U.S.-based carriers, said that some customers in the Middle East had lost all service, while others were experiencing partial disruptions on Internet connections.
Verizon had rerouted some of its traffic by sending it across the Atlantic, then the United States, across the Pacific, and on to the Middle East.
A New York Stock Exchange spokesman said he was unaware of any disruptions in trading. Exchanges CME Group, and IntercontinentalExchange said they had no disruption in their trading on Friday.