Submarine internet cables severed in Red Sea, disrupting communication networks in the Middle East

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Hong Kong-based telecoms company HGC Global Communications has reported a significant disruption to communications networks in the Middle East due to the severing of submarine internet cables in the Red Sea. The incident has impacted cables belonging to four major operators, potentially affecting internet traffic in India, Pakistan, and parts of East Africa.

HGC Global claims that at least 25% of the traffic has been affected, prompting operators to reroute traffic to minimize disruptions. The company is also extending assistance to affected businesses during this period of network instability. Notably, it is deemed “extremely rare” to witness damage to four submarine cables simultaneously.

The Red Sea, currently experiencing substantial shipping disruptions due to attacks by Yemen-based Houthi rebels in the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas conflict, now faces a new challenge with these cable cuts. It’s essential to note that the region hosts more than 15 submarine internet cables.

While the exact cause of the cable cuts remains undisclosed, Yemen has denied any involvement in the suspected sabotage, emphasizing its commitment to keeping telecom submarine cables away from potential risks.

Yemeni rebel leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi has also denied the allegations, stating, “We have no intention of targeting sea cables providing internet to countries in the region.” In contrast, Houthi rebels have accused British and US military units of being behind the suspected sabotage.

The repair work for the affected cables is expected to commence at least a month from now, according to South Africa-based Seacom, one of the cable system owners. However, ongoing security concerns in the Red Sea region may induce further delays in the repair process.

Submarine internet cables, often financed by tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta, serve as the backbone of the internet. Disruptions to these subsea networks can result in extensive internet blackouts, reminiscent of the aftermath of the Taiwan earthquake in 2006.