Saudi, UAE in new undersea cable deal

14,000km telecoms network will connect India and western Europe via the Middle East.

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By  Lynne Roberts and Reuters Published  February 6, 2008

India’s top mobile operator Bharti Airtel said on Wednesday it would build an undersea cable between India and France in partnership with eight telecoms firms to meet growing demand for data transfer.

The network, to be called I-ME-WE, will cover 14,000km and connect India and western Europe via the Middle East, Bharti said in a statement, adding it would be ready by late 2009.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Saudi Telecom confirmed it had signed a deal with the international consortium, saying it would help the company meet growing demand for telephone and internet services.

Other partners in the project include India’s Videsh Sanchar Nigam, UAE’s Etisalat, France Telecom, Lebanon’s Ogero, Pakistan Telecommunication Co, Telecom Egypt and Italy’s TIS Sparkle, Bharti said.

Bharti owns the i2i cable system, which connects India with Singapore.

It is one of the consortium partners in the SEA-ME-WE-4 cable system connecting India with Europe, which was damaged last week causing internet services and international calls to be seriously disrupted across the Gulf, South Asia and Egypt.

Four cables in total were damaged. Parts of the Gulf Arab region were plunged into a virtual blackout on Wednesday when two cables were cut near Alexandria, on Egypt’s north coast.

Indian-owned Flag Telecom revealed Friday that a third cable, Falcon had been
damaged off the UAE coast. And internet services in Qatar were badly affected after damage was caused to cable between the island of Haloul and the UAE island of Das on Friday.

Flag was quick to play down conspiracy theories over the damage as rumours began to circulate that the cables were sabotaged by the US and Israel to deprive Iran of internet access.

The theories were fuelled further on Monday when Egypt said damage to the cables in the Mediterranean Sea was not caused by ships, as previously thought.

A spokesperson for Flag said the cause of the breaks would not be known repair ships reached the site of the damage, telling ArabianBusiness.com "I think it is doubtful [the cable damage was intentional”.

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