Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Internet providers scrambled to divert connections when the Sea-MW-We 4 underwater cable was severed last Thursday.
Internet providers scrambled to divert connections when the Sea-MW-We 4 underwater cable was severed last Thursday.

Fewer jams ahead for Gulf internet traffic

Five new cables to speed up Web access; bandwidth capacity in the Middle East will be improved greatly by the end of the year

Internet users in the Middle East will have faster connections and fewer disruptions when five new cables come online by the end of the year. The region's overworked networks rely on just one major connection to the Web - an underwater cable known as "Sea-ME-We 4" that runs from Europe to the UAE and was last week accidentally severed in the Mediterranean Sea.

As internet providers scrambled to divert connections to regional centres when the cable was damaged last Thursday, online traffic in the UAE slowed to a crawl. Repair ships were expected to finish fixing the cable by tomorrow, Etisalat said. But while the Middle East receives most of its internet bandwidth from Sea-ME-We 4 and two other smaller connections, link-ups with greater reliability are on the way.

Stephan Beckert, the director of research for the US company TeleGeography Research, said five new cables were due to come online between Europe and Egypt this year. Adding cables to the Egyptian centre will create more bandwidth for the regional network to access. The new connections, operated by Telecom Egypt, Orascom Telecom and Reliance Communications, will more than double the internet bandwidth available in the region and reduce the dependency the Middle East has on the Sea-ME-We-4 cable.

"A cut in the Sea-ME-We-4 cable is particularly problematic because this cable currently accounts for just under 90 per cent of 'lit' [available] capacity between Europe and the Middle East," Mr Beckert said. "When [that cable] suffers an outage, operators cannot easily restore service by rerouting traffic over the other two cables, since they don't have anywhere near enough capacity. Instead, they can only restore service by rerouting traffic most of the way around the world."

Mr Beckert said by the end of the year, the Sea-ME-We-4 cable will account for only 40 per cent of the new bandwidth capacity available in the Middle East, with the five new cables providing almost all of the rest. Farid Faraidooni, the chief commercial officer for du, the UAE's second-largest telecommunications company, said the operators' internet service was not affected by the recent cable severance. The company operates the FALCON internet cable centre in Dubai. If it requires more bandwidth, it buys extra capacity from a centre based in Oman or from Etisalat's cable landing station, which distributes capacity locally.

"We have some capacity with Sea-ME-We-4 but very little, so we had extra capacity on other cables so we could shift our demand easily," Mr Faraidooni said. "There has been almost no impact on du." Although internet traffic speed has been improving since work on fixing the damaged cable began, some services such as YouTube have yet to resume. Representatives from Google, which owns the popular video streaming website, could not be reached for comment.

Etisalat is a partner in a US$400 million (Dh1.46 billion) underwater cable network consortium headed by Tata Communications that will link India to the Middle East and Africa. Its rival du has contributed $50m to the laying of a 15,000km cable linking the UK to India, which is worth a reported $700m. @Email:dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 The Greens, villas: Q1 no change. 3BR - Dh210-250,000. 4BR - Dh210-260,000. 5BR - Dh220-300,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 5% rise. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Where Dubai rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Dubai have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

 The cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear power plant near the Tyn nad Vltavou in Czech Republic. The country wants to continue expanding nuclear energy capacity despite cancelling a tender to build two new units. David W Cerny / Reuters

In pictures: Best business images for the week to April 17, 2014

Here are some of the best business images for the week to April 17, 2014.

 Three generations of the Hakimi family tend to their stall Crawford Market in Mumbai. Subhash Sharma for The National

In pictures: Shopper’s delight at Crawford Market in Mumbai

Crawford Market is an old British-style covered market dealing in just about every kind of fresh food and domestic animal imaginable. Later on renamed Mahatma Jotirao Phule, the market remains popular among locals and visitors by its old name, taken from Arthur Crawford who was the first municipal commissioner of the city.

 The Wind, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition takes place from April 14 to April 16. Above, the Dewa showroom during last year’s Wetex. Jaime Puebla / The National

April corporate and economic calendar for the UAE and overseas

From Cityscape to Wetex to stock-market holidays to nations reporting first-quarter GDP figures, here is our helpful calendar of April's business events in the UAE and internationally.

 Get the latest information on credit cards, bank accounts and loan products in the UAE. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Rates report: Latest on UAE loans, accounts and credit cards

Souqamal.com brings you the latest interest rates on banking products in the UAE.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National