In a disruption that may bring back memories of an earthquake off the coast of Taiwan that cut eight undersea cables in December 2006, Internet and phone communications in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia have been seriously disrupted after as many as four submarine cables were severed.
According to breaking reports from the BBC, the FLAG FEA, SMW4, and SMW3 lines near Egypt's Alexandria cable station are suspected to be severed. As well, a fault was found on the GO submarine cable 130km off shore from Sicily.
Wholesale products director of optical fibre network management firm Interoute (www.interoute.com), Jonathan Wright, told the BBC that it could take days to fix the fault, which could cause a serious impact on affected economies.
"This will grind economies to a halt for a short space of time," he said "If you look at, say, local financial markets who trade with European and US markets, the speed at which they get live data will be compromised." Interoute is responsible for part of the optical fibre network.
"If you think how quickly trades can be placed, if they are suffering from bad latency times, then by the time a trade is placed, the market may well have moved on."
It is suspected that 65 percent of data flow to India was cut, and there were significant service disruptions to Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Taiwan and Pakistan.
While the cause of the disruptions is unknown, some suggest that seismic activity near Malta in the Mediterranean Sea is suspected. Wright worries that because of line damage off the Egyptian coast earlier in the year when two lines were snapped, there could be compounded consequences.
"We've lost three out of four lines. If the fourth cable breaks, we're looking at a total blackout in the Middle East," Wright told the BBC. "These three circuits account for 90 percent of the traffic and we're going to see more international phone calls dropping and a huge degradation in the quality of local Internet."
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