Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Saboteurs may have cut Mideast telecom cables: UN

The Telegraph says the UN believes that 'saboteurs' may have cut the undersea cables which served the Middle East and Asia. "We do not want to pre-empt the results of ongoing investigations, but we do not rule out that a deliberate act of sabotage caused the damage to the undersea cables over two weeks ago," the UN agency's head of development, Sami al-Murshed, told AFP.

The cause of damage to the other four cables remains a mystery, particularly as the cables involved lie are deep-lying undersea cables specifically placed in areas with very light shipping traffic.

Gizmodo gives us some idea of the cable repair process.

The first thing you're gonna need is an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer. Engineers on shore use it to send light pulses down the cable, which reflect back at the breakage point, providing a measurable delay that can translate to distance within "tens of meters."

Once you get your location guestimation, you posse up your team of about 50 people and pile them onto—what else?—a cable ship. This ship will need remotely operated vehicles ROVs (see James Cameron) that you drive down to the sea floor, roving around until you spot your breakage.

When the ROV finds the affected cable segment, it may snip off the nasty bits (just leaving them there to become part of somebody's new habitat) and bring up the two new ends. On board the ship, operators can splice a new segment between the cleanly trimmed ends of the cable break, and drop it back down.

Which leads one to suspect that A) there was no foul play; otherwise the the cable repair ships ROVs would either spot the tap or the cable ships would haul the tap up itself if it were installed close to the break; or B) there's a separate tap and the breaks are intentionally created to create a new normal signal profile for the tapped cable.

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Blogger Arthur Dent said...

Is there any chance these cables are copper? I doubt it but.....
I've noticed huge aluminum light poles and guard rails stolen in my area in the last few years.

2/19/2008 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

There's copper sheathing (see the Gizmodo diagram) but a fiber optic core.

2/19/2008 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Modern cables are primarily fiberoptic due to the higher information carrying capacity over metallic cables.

Interestingly, I've actually used a variable time delay reflectometer (the electronic version of the optical instrument mentioned) to locate breaks in underground instrument cables.

I don't see that the forensic evidence will indicate whether the damage was accidental or intentional. It may have been a random act of destruction by islamisists against the hated internet, which spreads Western values among the ignorant. Communism and Islamofacism can only exist if you can keep the masses ignorant and indoctrinated.

2/19/2008 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Or (3), the tap will be installed onboard the ship when the cable is hauled up.

Who does the "cable ship" belong to and who staffs it and who supervises the installation of the new cable?

2/19/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

The first thing you're gonna need is an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer.

OTDR, it's not just four random letters in a row.

2/19/2008 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

It was my understanding that the tap location does NOT have to be near the break, only the break is needed to reset the new "standard" measure.

So if you wanted to "tap" an optical cable break it underwater and while it's down, install a tap somewhere else (dry) that can be hidden...

now I have also read that cables DO snap, thus they have ships to FIX them...

A good question would be:

How many breaks a year occur?

How many repairs are made a year?

What is the level of redundant cables that supply india and the arab world?

(small point, one reason that Israel is not affected by this specific outages is the israel is refused bandwidth on these specific cable... sometimes a boycott is good)

2/20/2008 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Reno Sepulveda said...

>>>>>>>Is there any chance these cables are copper? I doubt it but.....<<<<<<<<

Now that's funny. Never underestimate a tweaker.

2/20/2008 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger Wm_Edwin said...

"occupation", here's a couple of things I've uncovered:

>How many breaks a year occur?

There's one analyst at Telegeography.com, a "Stephen Beckert," who's on record with two answers: Cable cuts happen, on average,

1. Once every three days, (or 120 times a year) or

2. About fifty times a year.

So this needs to be resolved.

>What is the level of redundant cables that supply india and the arab world?

Check out this great chart at Telegeography.com.

Note the tremendous difference in the number of cables in the North Atlantic - or even across the Pacific - vis a vis the Middle East, or India - though I think India is a bit better off, they have a greater diversity of link ups east as well as west.

Also note that newer cables will tend to have much, much greater bandwidth than older ones. Again, though, the Middle East clearly seems to lack redundant channels.

2/20/2008 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Wouldn't the fewer cables for the Middle East simply be due to the lack of demand there, as well as their lack of technological skill to build and pay for these things?

They're 75 years out of the desert and mostly illiterate. They just want computers and e-mail because everyone else have them.

And they need a fast way to get to their stashed bank accounts.

2/20/2008 06:39:00 PM  

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