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Third cable cut, but India’s safe

New Delhi, Feb. 2: A third undersea cable, owned by Reliance Communications, was cut on Friday but Internet operations in India are unlikely to be affected.

“The Falcon cable was cut 56km from Dubai, between Oman and the United Arab Emirates,” Flag Telecom, a wholly owned Reliance subsidiary, said in a statement today. Web access in West Asia has been hit.

A repair ship has been notified and is expected to reach the site in a few days, Flag said.

“The damage will not affect Internet services across India as the Falcon cable carries data between Muscat and Egypt on the Mediterranean route while we have already routed all traffic to cable systems available on the Pacific route,” said Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of India.

Two undersea cables had snapped near Alexandria off the coast of Egypt on Wednesday, slicing India’s digital pathway to half.

“By late Friday evening, Internet connectivity was restored by more than 90 per cent, thanks to shifting of traffic to alternate routes. In another day or two, complete normality is likely to be restored,” said Chharia.

It would take 10-12 days to repair the two damaged undersea cables and shift the traffic back, he added.

One of those cables, like the Falcon, is owned by Flag. The other has 16 owners, among them India’s Bharti Airtel and VSNL.

“The geographical location of India gives it an edge over other nations as we can provide international connectivity through two different routes — Mediterranean and Pacific. This is the reason why we were able to cope with this problem in such a short time,” Chharia said.

Egypt, which lost more than half its Internet capacity because of Wednesday’s breaks, intends to ask the owners of the two cables to compensate its Internet and call centre companies, its ministry of communications said in a news release.

Flag Telecom said workers were still trying to determine the cause of the latest cable break. Egyptian officials had said Wednesday’s damage was caused by a ship’s anchor.

The International Cable Protection Committee has declined to speculate on the cause of the breaches, saying investigations were on.

Fishing vessels are typically responsible for two-thirds of all submarine cable faults.

Submarine cables for telegraphic messages have been laid since the 19th century. Bombay was connected to Saudi Arabia via cable in 1863 and to London in 1870. Early cables used copper to carry electrical signals. But since the late-1980s, companies have been shifting to fibre optic cables that carry data in the form of light signals.

Satellites are widely used for data transmission but they have not made cables obsolete.

Fibre optic cables can transmit voice and data traffic with higher reliability and security at a cheaper rate than satellite, according to the cable protection committee. Data transmission is also slightly faster via submarine cables than through satellites.

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