Internet in India Slowed by Middle East Outage

Two underwater cables in the Mediterranean Sea have been damaged. The reasons are currently unclear.

Internet traffic from India to countries like the U.S. and the U.K. has slowed down, as Internet service providers (ISPs) have started diverting traffic from Middle Eastern links to slower links through the Asia-Pacific region, according to the head of an ISP association in India.

Two underwater cables in the Mediterranean Sea, including one from Flag Telecom, owned by India's Reliance Communications, and another from the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) consortium, were damaged Wednesday for reasons as yet unclear.

"These links carry most of India's premium traffic to the Atlantic region, resulting in a disruption of about 50 to 60 percent of the bandwidth from India on Wednesday when the cables were first damaged," said Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers' Association of India (ISPAI), in an interview Thursday.

Most of the traffic has now been routed through submarine cable links in the Asia-Pacific but traffic to the east coast of the U.S. and the U.K. will be slow, because of the longer latency involved by these diversions, Chharia said.

Repairs to the Flag Telecom cable would take at least 10 to 15 days, which would mean that Indian companies, including outsourcing companies, will be affected for this period, Chharia said. A Reliance spokesman could not immediately provide an update on the status of the repairs, and other measures taken by Flag Telecom.

India's second largest outsourcer, Infosys Technologies, said that its Internet service had not been affected by the outage in the Middle East. The company uses a lot of redundant links from a variety of service providers, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Another large Indian outsourcer, Satyam Computer Services, of Hyderabad, said that even as the links went down in the Middle East, the company automatically switched over voice and Internet traffic to networks from other service providers.

A lot of Satyam's traffic that used to go through the Middle East links is now being routed through Singapore. "We are seeing an increase in latency in MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) from 280 milliseconds to 310 milliseconds, and in Internet traffic from 300 to 350 milliseconds, which isn't a big problem," said Srinivasu C, head of network and systems at Satyam.

The ISPAI recommends providing more backups on the Atlantic sector to ensure that the current problem does not get repeated in future, Chharia added.

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