Internet disruptions a 'close shave' for India

Feb 5th 2008
Sift Media
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Internet speeds slowed for several days after three Internet cables in the Mediterranean Sea were sliced, disrupting service in the Middle East and India, but observers say major outsourcing operations adjusted to the crisis well.

India has attracted a huge volume of data processing and back-office work, and the largest western businesses felt few effects, FinanceWeek reported. Infosys, for example, India's second largest business process offshoring provider, said its service was unaffected because of redundancies built into its system.

The breakage of two cables near Alexandria, Egypt, Wednesday cut India's bandwidth in half, according to early estimates. A third damaged cable near Dubai was discovered Friday. Data was re-routed, in some cases to backup satellite systems or through Asia. Originally, it was said that the damage was done by ships dropping anchor offshore due to a storm, but now Egypt's Transport Ministry says no ships were in the area at the time of the incident, ABC News reported.

As of Monday, about 90 percent of India's bandwidth had been restored. Cable repairs are expected to take two weeks.

Connectivity is a lower priority for some users. For small to mid-size outsourcing operations and average Web surfers in India, the "impact has been horrendous", Deepak Gupta of the Business Process Industry Association of India, told The Christian Science Monitor. The association works with many of India's outsourcing firms.

Using Internet cables for phone conversations requires huge capacity. When that capacity shrinks without a backup plan, Gupta says: "You can't hold a conversation."

But observers of India's huge outsourcing industry generally praised the quick rebound. "India could have lost credibility as an always-on supplier of an ever-growing variety of services. Except that none of this happened. India and world can thank the design of the Internet, Hydra-headed as it is, to this happy turn of events. Within a few milliseconds, life was back to normal, almost", a column in the India Times said.

Rajesh Chharia, president of Internet Service Providers Association of India, told the newspaper: "At the end of it, it was a close shave for India. When the whole world is looking to India, we couldn't have let this shake our reliability."


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