22 Dec 2008

Robot searches for damaged cables

8:24 am on 22 December 2008

A submarine robot is searching for damaged cables in the Mediterranean that have disrupted Internet and phone services throughout the Middle East and south Asia.

No one knows just how long it will take to find the cables, as the ship's anchor suspected of causing the damage may have dragged them several kilometres from their normal positions between Sicily and Tunisia.

But once they're found, the robot will bring the damaged parts up to a waiting ship, where they will be repaired before being put back.

France Telecom expects the SEA-ME-WE4 cable to be fixed by Christmas Day and SEA-ME-WE3 by 31 December. The FLAG cable, owned by a different consortium, will be repaired by another cable ship.

The three cables were damaged on Friday. A minor cable linking Malta and Italy may also be affected.

Cable details

SEA-ME-WE4 is 20,000km long and links 14 countries. It runs from France through the Red Sea to India and then Singapore.

SEA-ME-WE3 is 40,000km long and links 33 countries. It runs from northern Germany to Spain, the Red Sea, India and Southeast Asia, from where two branches extend as far as Australia and South Korea.

FLAG Europe Asia (FEA) is 27,000km long and runs from Britain through the Red Sea to India, Southeast Asia and Japan.