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Repair begins on cut Persian Gulf Internet cable

/ Source: The Associated Press

A repair ship has arrived and begun work at the site of an Internet cable cut last week in the Persian Gulf, while a second vessel was to reach later Tuesday the location north of Egypt where two other cables were cut just two days earlier, FLAG Telecom said.

The cuts disrupted Internet services across a large swath of the Middle East and India, slowing down businesses and hampering personal Internet usage.

U.K-based FLAG Telecom said its ship with spare parts reached Tuesday the fault location some 35 miles north of Dubai, between the Emirates and Oman, were the company's FALCON cable was cut last Friday.

"The FLAG repair team is operating in extreme weather conditions to ensure timely repairs," the company said on its Web site.

FLAG, which stands for Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe, also said that a second repair ship would reach later Tuesday the site of its FLAG Europe-Asia cable, cut last Wednesday some 5 miles off the Egyptian coast, on the segment between Egypt and Italy. FLAG said it had all permits needed from the Egyptian government to start work there.

FLAG's Mediterranean cable was cut along with a cable lying next to it, identified as SEA-ME-WE 4, or South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4, owned by a consortium of 16 international telecommunication companies.

After the Mediterranean cut occurred, FLAG said repairs would likely take up to a week of the ship's arrival. The company also said it fully restored circuits to some customers and switched to alternative routes for others.

There has been wide speculation that the cuts were caused by ships' anchors, dragged along the bottom of the sea in stormy weather. But on Sunday, Egypt's telecommunication ministry said no ships were registered on or near the location when the cables were cut north of Alexandria.

Large-scale disruptions are rare but not unknown. East Asia suffered nearly two months of outages and slow service after an earthquake damaged undersea cables near Taiwan in December 2006. That repair operation also was hampered by bad weather.

Most governments in the region appeared to have been operating normally following the Mideast outage, apparently because they switched to backup satellite systems.