Robot submarine deployed to find and help fix internet cables

December 22, 2008

(ChattahBox) — While the entire Middle East and India is teetering on the verge of an internet blackout after three out of four undersea cables that connect it to the rest of the world were mysteriously cut at the weekend, repairs are underway. Both internet and phone connections are at risk, with only one submarine cable remaining intact. The cable cuts have affected most parts of the Middle East, but Egypt has reportedly been able to restore most of its communications by re-routing network traffic.

French crews have been deployed to repair the cables with the help of a robot submarine (called “Hector”), which is being used to locate the broken cables and bring them to the surface of the Mediterranean to be repaired on board the company’s C/S Raymond Croze 3,200-ton cable maintenance ship. France Telecom Marine has five Hectors, which the company uses to lay, bury, inspect and maintain its undersea cables. The 13.8-foot (4.2-meter) long submarines can dive as deep as 6,562 feet (2,000 meters) and have their own sonar, video cameras and cable-tracking systems.

France Telecom Marine spokesman Louis-Michel Aymard told the Associated Press: “We have to fix the cable fibre by fibre, and it’s a very huge cable.”

France Telecom has put the ETA on the repair of cable SEA-ME-WE4 by 25 December and SEA-ME-WE3 by the end of the year.

A third line severed in the same incident, FLAG, is not operated by the same consortium and is set to be repaired by another ship operated by India’s Reliance Globalcom, which is en route to make the repair, NetworkWorld reported today.

It is not yet confirmed what caused the cables to snap, though the breakage is most likely to be connected to an errant ship’s anchor or underwater earthquakes deep in the Med between Sicily and Tunisia.


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