It’s been like spending a week trying to pogo in molasses – the Internet is just not terribly well. And I have to confess, after a week of pages not loading, Twitter not updating and email taking an age, I’m feeling somewhat frustrated and generally pissy.
The statement from Etisalat (back on the 20th) that its services were unaffected as it had rushed to route bandwidth through other means was piffle, as usual. Du made the same statement, but I don’t use their services so can’t comment. Etisalat’s network quality most certainly has been significantly affected by the outage, but why let the facts stop you lying to you customers and treating them like morons? It never stopped ‘em before, anyway. I’ve also had a few dodgy voice circuits, which might be a result of the telco that likes to say ‘ugh’ cutting some of its voice traffic over to IP from its beloved yoghurt pots.
To be fair, it’s not their fault that some Captain Pugwash type decided to drag SEAMEWE4 on the end of his anchor ‘till it snapped (or whatever mad series of events led to the break). But I do wish they’d just tell the truth.
SEAMEWE (anoraks will know it stands for South East Asia Middle East Western Europe) and FLAG (Fibre-optic Link Around the Globe) are the two main cable systems upon which the bulk (if not all) of the UAE’s Internet traffic depends. There are four SEAMEWEs – the last time we had problems, it was a cut in SEAMEWE4, the latest most sparkly terabit capacity cable. SEAMEWE3 is also operational, but SEAMEWE1 and 2 have been phased out.
Although it is feasible to use satellite, and there are satellite circuits available, this is an expensive and limited option that most telcos will only use as a last resort – the great undersea cables are where it’s at.
There are other circuits apart from SEAMEWE 3 and 4 and FLAG, for instance (as you’ll see from the map above) there’s a circuit that goes around Africa. But the Red Sea and Suez are the most vulnerable points in the network of sub-sea cables that underpins our ability to do important stuff like play Chatroulette and listen to the Moon Song.
Until there is better diversity, we’ll continue to be highly vulnerable to breaks – and will continue to see limited bandwidth sold to us at premium prices compared to other world markets. It constantly rankles when I think that the Japanese are paying $0.27 per megabit month, with the average subscriber taking a 60 Gig line. Yes, 60Gig. In fact, much of the world gets plenty more bandwidth (with less latency) for less money than we do. A hell of a lot less money.
Hey, ho. It’s not as if Internet connectivity were critical to the development of the Middle East region and the largest single factor in its ability to be competitive moving forward, is it?