x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Upgrades needed to stop more undersea internet cable cuts

Experts say better infrastructure is needed to decrease the chances of internet outages caused by undersea cable faults.

As operators work to recover from internet slowdowns caused by a damaged undersea cable off the UAE coastline, experts say only infrastructure upgrades can stave off future interruptions.

Cable problems can often occur as a result of natural disasters such as earthquakes, but most of the time they are caused by anchors and fishing trawlers, according to Mashood Ahmad, the regional director of Ciena, a network solutions company.

Cuts occur fairly often, and in late 2008 and early 2009, multiple cable breaks caused service disruptions in the UAE that lasted for weeks.

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The shallow waters of the Gulf make it difficult to keep undersea cables protected and their repair is tricky.

"When you're dealing with subsea cables it's much more difficult," said Mr Ahmad. "Subsea cables take a long time to deploy because they require a lot of specialised ships that go out to sea and lay the cables, and it's a much lengthier process. It takes much longer to deploy the ships to go out to bring up the cable and repair it."

How swiftly repairs are carried out can often have a direct impact on customers and even entire economies.

Following the interruption announced by du last week, one financial broker said stockbrokers with servers that operated in London had difficulty buying and selling shares.

Said Mahmoud, a public relations professional, said his company often relies on online collaboration tools to draft material and press releases, and during the service disruption their work came to a standstill. Documents are saved on a server in London, Mr Mahmoud said.

"A lot of material for clients - press releases, pitches, e-mail and writing documents - depends heavily on the internet," he said. "We have to meet deadlines."

Kareem al Rasheedi, a banker who works in customer service, said clients had difficulty transferring cash at the peak of the service disruption.

Mr Ahmad, of Ciena, said telecom operators can lay more deep-sea cables, which can be "prohibitively expensive", as well as improve the bandwidth of their existing cables.

He said network operators should move towards a "mesh architecture"and invest in software allowing networks to reroute internet traffic around cable faults.

Ciena is a communications solutions company that is also involved in deploying mesh networks.

"A single cut can cause issues with traffic congestion, and if there are two cuts, which has happened in the past in the region, it can cause complete outage for an operator," he said.

"The UAE is one of the central gateways into the Middle East."

 

kshaheen@thenational.ae