Between 4.30am and 8am on Wednesday January 30th 2008, two ships 2,500 kilometres apart in the Mediterranean Sea dropped their anchors off Alexandria, Egypt and Marseilles, France.

They both managed to drop their anchors directly onto, and breaking, two separate undersea cables buried fifty centimetres in the sand – the cables were about the diameter of a human wrist.

It should be noted that the anchors breaking the cables is supposition – neither cable company directly said that the cables were broken by the dropped anchor; this is, however, the generally accepted rationale for the breakages.

The cables carried approximately 75% of international data and voice network capacity in the Middle East and south Asia.

Two days later on Friday morning February 1st, a third cable is severed by an abandoned anchor embedded in the sea floor off the coast of Dubai severing the link between Oman and Dubai.

To finish off the week, two days later on Sunday February 3rd a fourth cable goes down, this time between United Arab Emirates and Qatar – a result of a power failure.

Network traffic disruptions of 70% in Egypt and 60% in India were reported, along with network issues in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Multinational call centres in India reported being impacted by the outage.


The breakages tested the business continuity plans of those impacted.

The unexpected collapse in service forced internet providers across the region to seek alternative connections most using backup bandwidth sources under contract for just such an emergency.

According to the ISP Association of India, service providers in India adapted to the cuts relatively quickly.

Traffic from business customers were given top priority on networks, with consumer traffic taking second place.

Many companies had learnt from the disruption caused in December 2006 when an earthquake off the coast of Taiwan severed seven major undersea cables that served India as well as east Asia.

The Association said “most had done good network planning and made sure they get bandwidth from several service providers … but there were people who did not have redundancy in their networks.”


Interestingly, the events are far less exceptional than they seem because cable cuts happen all the time.

On average cables cuts happen once every three days.

Due to many alternative cable routing options a cut in a cable cross the Atlantic would have no significant effect.

The issue in this incident is that the Middle East is served by a small number of cables – hence a lack of macro infrastructure network redundancy had an impact on businesses that they could not control.

A lesson that not all risks are controllable by your business – but all risks can be managed or mitigated.


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