Cables were damaged in the Red Sea, disrupting Internet traffic

Cables were damaged in the Red Sea, disrupting Internet traffic

Damage to submarine cables in the Red Sea is disrupting telecommunications networks and forcing ISPs to reroute up to a quarter of traffic between Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including Internet traffic.

According to Hong Kong-based telecommunications company HGC Global Communications, cables belonging to four major telecommunications networks were “severed”, causing “significant” disruption to communications networks in the Middle East.

HGC estimates this affected 25% of traffic between Asia and Europe and the Middle East. The company said it was redirecting traffic to minimize inconvenience to customers and was “providing assistance to affected businesses.”

HGC did not say how the cables were damaged or who was responsible.

South African company Seacom, which owns one of the affected cable systems, told CNN that repairs would begin within a month. One reason is the length of time it takes to obtain work permits in the area.

Undersea cables are the invisible force that drives the Internet. In recent years, many of them have been financed by such Internet giants as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook Meta. Damage to these underwater networks could lead to massive internet outages,
as happened after the 2006 Taiwan earthquake.

The damage to the cables in the Red Sea comes weeks after Yemen’s official government warned of the possibility of an attack by Houthi rebels on the cables. Militants backed by Iran have already disrupted global supply chains by attacking commercial vessels on a vital waterway.

Israel’s Globes news agency reported last week that the Houthis were behind the cable damage. The leader of the Yemeni rebels, Abdel Malek al-Houthi, rejected the accusations. “We have no intention of targeting the submarine cables that provide internet in the countries of the region,” he said.

The Houthis have since blamed British and American military units operating in the area for the damage, according to a report on Saturday by the rebels’ official news agency. CNN has contacted the UK and US governments for comment.

Seacom’s director of digital technology, Prenesh Padayachi, said it could take up to eight weeks to get permits from Yemen’s maritime authorities to repair the cables. “Customer traffic will continue to be rerouted until we can repair the damaged cable,” he added.

Other disrupted networks include Asia-Africa-Europe 1, a 25,000-kilometer (15,534-mile) cable system connecting Southeast Asia to Europe via Egypt. The Euro-India Gate (EIG) was also damaged. EIG brings together Europe, the Middle East and India, with Vodafone as a major investor. Vodafone, a major mobile operator in the United Kingdom, declined to comment.

On its website, the company says it can carry Internet traffic through about 80 submarine cable systems covering 100 countries.

Most major telecommunications companies rely on multiple submarine cable systems, allowing them to reroute traffic in the event of a failure to ensure uninterrupted service.

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