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Dispute over submarine cables

04 июня 2008

Submarine cable companies and internet service providers are blaming each other for a lack of investment in back-up infrastructure that was highlighted earlier this year when ships damaged undersea cable connections off the Egyptian coast and in the Gulf of Oman.

Punit Garg, chief executive of Reliance Globalcom, part of the Indian communications group that controls the world’s leading fibre-optic submarine cable, said in an interview that 90 per cent of ISPs in developing countries were making either insufficient or misguided investments in redundancy, or back-up, networks.

However, ISPs counter that to justify further investments on their part, cable companies must first offer better systems, in particular the ability to switch automatically to another route if their connection is severed.

The blame game between infrastructure and internet providers is particularly relevant for India, whose recent economic boom has been spearheaded by outsourcing and other technology activities. In late January, India’s internet bandwidth to Europe was halved after ships accidentally damaged cables off Egypt.

Mr Garg said: “ISPs have not made enough investments. Everybody is looking at the low-hanging fruit ... They always live on the mercy of God but in fact many do not design their network properly. They have to buy capacity from different cables in different directions but they don’t do that. If anything, they often buy from two cables going in the same direction.”

But Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of India, said ISPs would pay for better back-up if that was on offer. “We know that there is no free lunch, but at the moment we aren’t being offered what we need. This is a chain work and the infrastructure provider has to create the right system first,” he told the Financial Times.

Reliance owns Flag Telecom, which is set to boost its network from 68,000km to 115,000km of fibre-optic sea cables by the end of 2009, adding routes such as Chennai to Hong Kong.

In December
2006, a Taiwanese earthquake also left east Asia with reduced internet service for two months. Mr Garg said: “We have learnt big lessons from the [Asian] tsunami, Taiwan and what happened earlier this year [in Egypt]. Such disasters don’t come every day. The infrastructure is improving and more and more cables are being built.”

One region of concern, he said, was the Gulf. “There’s all this dredging activity. They are creating new islands so cables that you are setting now are becoming vulnerable because, as you dredge, a cable will move.”

Executives from two of India’s largest outsourcing companies, Infosys and Wipro Technologies, insisted in separate interviews that they had not been affected thanks to their back-up investments.

“In the last few years we have built up a whole network to take care of such possible outages,” said M. Bala Giridhar, a Wipro vice-president.

“But there are some companies which probably signed up with other services providers and did not have such redundancy, so that they really did suffer [in January].”

Источник: Financial Times

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