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SEA-ME-WE 4 outage ; Impact on India Broadband Services

Bangalore: The cut on the Sea-ME-We-4 submarine cable between Alexandria and Marseilles, could have an impact on broadband connections in India. Though the cable cut happened on Wednesday, telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel, sent out a warning to subscribers, on Friday, that they may experience a drop in their broadband speeds.

Indian operators, including Bharti Airtel and Tata Telecommunications, are part of the Sea-Me-We-4 under-sea cable consortium. So far only operators in the Western Asian region have felt any real impact of the cable cut. There are reports of disruption in services in Bangladesh also. A Bharti Airtel spokesperson said that the warning to subscribers have been sent as a measure of caution although there is no impact in India yet.

The fault had developed after the submarine cable insulation got damaged and a short circuit occurred as it came into contact with water. The Sea-ME-We-4 is approximately 18,800-km long and provides main Internet network hubs in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, India and Pakistan.

This is the fourth time the Sea-ME-We-4 cable has been severed since 2004. In 2008, the cable was severed in January and December slowing Internet traffic in India.

Usually when an under-sea cable develops a snag, operators load the traffic to other cable networks running through the region. Consumers in India had experienced some disruption in services last time in 2008 when the Reliance Communications-owned Flag cable system had developed a cut due to ship anchorage. On that occasion the issue had reached the telecom regulator with Reliance accusing the others including Bharti of not giving capacity on their cable network to meet the emergency demand.

While consumers of broadband services get affected, the impact on heavy bandwidth users such as Internet companies and business process outsourcing units is higher as a result of any cable cut. Telecom operators in India said that they are doing the needful in case the cut on Sea-MW-We-4 start affecting services in the country.

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