Red Sea Cable Damage Disrupts Internet Traffic Across Continents

Recently, in a telecommunications setback, damage to submarine cables in the Red Sea is causing disruptions in communication networks, affecting a quarter of the traffic between Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, including internet services. Four major telecom networks, including Hong Kong’s HGC Global Communications, report that cables have been cut, leading to a substantial impact on communication in the Middle East. HGC estimates that approximately 25% of traffic between Asia and Europe, as well as the Middle East, has been affected.

To mitigate the disruption, HGC is rerouting traffic and providing assistance to affected businesses. However, the company has not disclosed the cause of the cable damage or identified those responsible. Seacom, a South Africa-based company owning one of the affected cable systems, has stated that repairs will not commence for at least a month due in part to the time needed to secure permits for operation in the area.

These undersea cables, largely funded by internet giants such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta (Facebook’s parent company), are the backbone of the internet. Damage to these subsea networks can result in widespread internet outages, reminiscent of the aftermath of the 2006 Taiwan earthquake.

The recent damage in the Red Sea follows warnings from the official Yemeni government about the potential targeting of cables by Houthi rebels. These Iranian-backed militants have previously disrupted global supply chains by attacking commercial vessels in the crucial waterway. While Israeli reports suggested Houthi involvement in the cable damage, rebel leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi denied these allegations, blaming British and US military units operating in the area for the destruction.

Prenesh Padayachee, Chief Digital Officer at Seacom, highlights the lengthy process of acquiring permits from the Yemeni maritime authority, estimating up to eight weeks for approval. Until repairs are complete, client traffic will continue to be rerouted to ensure uninterrupted service.

Among the affected networks is Asia-Africa-Europe 1, a 25,000-kilometre cable system connecting South East Asia to Europe via Egypt, and the Europe India Gateway (EIG), which has sustained damage. Vodafone, a major investor in EIG and a prominent mobile network operator in the United Kingdom has declined to comment on the situation.

In response to this disruption, it is essential to note that most large telecom companies rely on multiple undersea cable systems, allowing them to reroute traffic during outages to maintain uninterrupted service for users across the affected regions. The implications of this event underscore the vulnerability of our interconnected global communication infrastructure.

As Seacom and other stakeholders work towards repairing the damaged cables, the global community awaits a resolution to this critical issue that impacts the seamless flow of information across continents.

Source: Original Post

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