Fibre Optic

PARIS, December 21, 2008 (AFP) – France Telecom said Sunday that repair work has begun on damage to Mediterranean undersea cables that badly disrupted Internet and telephone communications between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. A 64-crew maintenance boat arrived on site, off the coast of Sicily, at 1400 GMT on Sunday following a two-day journey from southern France, said a spokesman for the telecoms operator.

An underwater robot has been sent down to locate the cables, which may have been dragged several kilometres off site in the incident on Friday, and lift them to the surface where they will be repaired fibre by fibre.

Phone and Internet traffic between Europe, the Middle East and Asia remains badly disrupted by the cable damage, although most business-to-business traffic has been rerouted through the United States.

Three cables linking Sicily to Egypt are affected, as well as a smaller private cable linking Malta and Italy.

France Telecome said it will take until December 25 to repair a first cable, and until December 31 before normal service is restored.

The cause of the damage remains unclear, with France Telecom saying that trawler’s nets or an underwater landslide could be to blame.