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OpinionsHouthi aggression suspected in India’s undersea internet cable damage

Houthi aggression suspected in India’s undersea internet cable damage

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New Delhi has to take all precautions for protecting its assets in Red Sea

By Girish Linganna

Internet connectivity across large parts of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East has experienced interruptions due to damages to the undersea cables serving these regions.

Hong Kong's HGC Global Communications has reported that up to 25% of internet traffic in the affected regions has been disrupted. The firm is actively redirecting internet traffic to minimize the impact and is offering support to businesses that have been affected, according to Fortune Media House.

HGC mentioned in an earlier statement that it's highly unusual for four out of the more than 15 undersea internet cables in the Red Sea to be damaged simultaneously, calling the event “exceptionally rare.”

While the damage to the cables didn't cut off internet access to any country entirely, the Wall Street Journal noted that internet service in , Pakistan, and certain areas of East Africa experienced significant degradation.

No service providers have provided an explanation for the cable damages. Yemen's telecommunications ministry has refuted rumours of its involvement in the disruptions, emphasizing its commitment to safeguard all undersea telecom cables from potential dangers.

Most of the internet's data traffic relies on underwater cables, which are less expensive than cables on land. However, they are more susceptible to damage from ships' anchors.

The recent conflict in the Middle East has led experts to question the timing and severity of the recent outage. The Houthi group, based in Iran, has been particularly aggressive in the Red Sea. This includes an incident in mid-February when a crew abandoned their cargo ship following an attack by the Houthis. The ship, which had weighed anchor, was left adrift for weeks before it finally sank.

The Houthi dominance in the area, coupled with the persistent conflict in Yemen, complicates the repair of the damaged cables. One of the four impacted companies has indicated plans to begin repairs at the start of the second quarter. However, this timeline could be affected by permit complications, conditions, and the ongoing civil war in Yemen.

Underwater cables serve as the unseen backbone of today's internet, with major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon investing in them in recent years. They transmit nearly all of our communications, yet despite the prevalence of wireless networks and smartphones, we are often unaware of their existence.

Currently, approximately 380 subsea cables are functioning globally, covering a distance exceeding 1.2 million kilometres (about 745,645 miles). However, as the internet has shifted towards greater mobile and wireless usage, the volume of data transmitted through submarine cables has surged dramatically.

Typically, when a cable fails, natural causes are not the primary culprit. Each year, there are roughly 200 instances of such failures, with the majority being attributed to human activities.

Accidental human actions, including the use of fishing nets and trawling as well as ships' anchors, are responsible for two-thirds of cable failures. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and underwater landslides, constitute the next most significant cause of these disruptions.

Submarine or undersea cables are ideally suited for handling large amounts of data traffic between geographically proximate nations, while satellites are better suited for remote or underserved areas that lack cable-based community infrastructure. However, these two technologies are not mutually exclusive and can enhance one another to create a more robust and reliable network infrastructure. For instance, satellites can provide alternative connectivity solutions during submarine cable failures or other disturbances, whereas submarine cables can deliver high-capacity, low-latency links between countries that are close to each other.

The main drawbacks of transmitting data via satellites include their limited bandwidth, which can be quickly overwhelmed by high-volume data traffic, resulting in slower speeds and increased latency. Additionally, satellite operations are more costly compared to submarine or undersea cables, particularly for handling large amounts of data. They are also vulnerable to interference from weather conditions, solar flares, and other environmental factors, which can interrupt transmissions. (IPA Service)

 

(The author is a , Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru.)

 

 

 

 

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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