Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cable Cuts a Coincidence?

Yesterday I wrote an analysis for a consulting service stating that three cable cuts in three days is most likely not an accident.  Today, news outlets (TelecomTV) announced a fourth undersea cable cut that occurred late Sunday, presumably to FLAG's FALCON cable.  One does not have to be an Oliver Stone devotee to realize that these incidents were most likely an act of sabotage.  Conspirorists were quick to come out of the closet and blame the military, CIA, NSA, and/or the Bush Administration.  I find it hard to believe that anyone with any credibility would even suggest that the United States had any involvement with these cuts.

The point is that someone or some organization is intent in disrupting global commerce and isolate the Middle East.  I included the article I wrote yesterday below because I believe that these incidents validate the need for us in the industry to continue to ensure reliability in the equipment and networks we build.


Now that a third undersea fiber cable has been cut, the probability is extremely low that it was an accident.  Someone or some organization is intent on disrupting international commerce and finance in the Middle East in the attempt to isolate the more secular countries like the UAE, Egypt, and India.  The robustness of the global telecommunications infrastructure minimizes the impact of multiple failures.  Although this action has political and ramifications, these incidents demonstrate the need to continually build redundancy and reliability into our telecommunications infrastructure.

Undersea cable map


The original CNN story stated that two of FLAG Telecom's undersea cables were cut Wednesday and then Friday another FLAG cable (FALCON) was cut in waters outsize Dubai.  The probability that these three cuts in the same region of the world all happening within three days is extremely low that it was an accident.  In the telecommunications world, we design networks and products to survive single and double failures, but we almost never design for a triple failure because the probability of three nearly simultaneous failures happening is infinitesimal.

I will not delve into who or why these cables were cut because they were clearly an attempt to isolate many countries in the Middle East from the rest of the world.  Cutting these undersea cables was a move to disrupt international commerce, travel, and financial transactions of some of the more secular Middle Eastern countries.  The truth is that these cuts had a minimal impact on business because of the reliability and redundancy that the industry has built into its telecommunications infrastructure.

Today we expect split second trades, continuous package tracking, near instantaneous document delivery, and global access to information any time, any where.  In order to meet the virtually continuous availability to communications, the industry builds its network to sustain multiple failures.  Traffic is rerouted another path to the same destination when the primary path fails.  Equipment has a backup in case it fails.  Telephone offices are built with excess capacity to take over the load if one of its neighbors fails.  As more and more of our communications travel over packets, it is easier to make the network more resilient to failures.  Packets wind their way through the network until they reach their destination.  They do not always take the same route to get there, but they get there.

This protection and resiliency is why cutting three cables had a minimal impact on the communications in the Middle East.  Redundant capacity, alternate routes, and multiple cables are why these accidents have minimal impact.  Carriers will continue to build more cables to add capacity and diversity to their networks.  The capital expenditures will be tremendous, but the ROI will justify the expense.  Redundancy has its price, but imagine the economic impact of 9 Middle Eastern countries not being able to conduct global business for 10 days.