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01 March 2024

'Two weeks to fix cables'

By Adrian Murphy


Internet and telecom users in the UAE face slow connections during peak times for up to two weeks after sub-sea communication cables off the coast of Egypt were damaged by shipping movements.


Repair ships were yesterday heading to the scene, 12km off the coast of Alexandria, following Wednesday’s accident that affected internet links and voice traffic to the Middle East, the Subcontinent and Egypt.


After the link was severed, telecom traffic was re-routed from the affected cables through other systems, said the UAE’s telecoms companies, du and etisalat.


Experts dismissed media reports that claimed life in Dubai had ground to a halt because of the damage to the cables.


Wadi Ahmed, DIFC’s chief marketing officer, said: “We are happy to say that at DIFC there have been no problems. We have a lot of redundancy in place as a back-up system, in case of eventualities such as this. We were able to re-route our clients through these systems.”


Meanwhile du said in a statement: “Du has transferred internet and international voice traffic through other cable systems that were not affected, although there will be congestion at peak times. Du has implemented a new routing plan to re-route its international outbound voice traffic on other available routes and secured more capacity for internet access to provide customers service that is as close to normal levels as possible.


“The cable cuts in no way effect local coverage, as they are not related to our network. This situation only effects international voice calls and internet access for traffic that is routed through those cables.”


It is believed one ship will do both repairs. No schedule is available yet, but initial estimates indicate it will take at least two weeks to repair the FLAG cable.


An etisalat spokesman said in a statement: “We are working closely with the administration, partners and operators concerned, for urgent repair work to ensure the links with major global internet hubs are restored at the earliest.


“The redundant links deployed by etisalat for such an eventuality has meant normal internet browsing and essential traffic will continue to work at reasonable speeds for customers.”


An internet expert told Emirates Business that using submarine cables was more efficient and cheaper than other systems, but operators normally have other systems they would be using as well.
“Typically, any country looking at internet connections will go and connect to the internet backbone, whether by satellite or submarine cable,” he said.


“They will tap into the fibre optic cable on the seabed, which forms part of the total required bandwidth. This is the fastest and most efficient way with the highest bandwidth.”


Mohammed Al Ghanim, Director-General of Telecomunications Regulatory Authority, said: “etisalat and du are doing their utmost to alleviate the damage that might be done to the country’s internet network.”


 Director of TRA technical affairs Mohammed Guyath said the UAE sustained the least damage because of the availability of several alternative lines. (Additional reporting by Abdel Hai Mohammed)