BT: No danger of mass internet outage in UK

Resilient infrastructure should prevent the UK from experiencing a disruption to internet connectivity similar to the one that hit the Middle East and India

The UK is unlikely ever to suffer the kind of internet service disruption recently experienced in the Middle East and India on Wednesday, according to BT.

The telecoms company said that an incident of the same scale was unlikely to affect the UK, due to much more extensive infrastructure. "We do have pretty substantial resilience," said a BT spokesperson. "We can't go into any more detail about the network for obvious national security reasons, but the UK is linked to the US and Europe by quite a few sub-sea cables."

BT added that none of its UK customers had been affected by the cutting of the FLAG and Sea-Me-We-4 undersea cables in the Mediterranean Sea. "It hasn't had a major impact on us," added the BT spokesperson. "We had a couple of private circuits affected, but we have a disaster recovery plan for our Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), voice and data platforms for corporations. We have rerouted data onto other cables."

BT also operates so-called leased-lines for global corporations, and buys private circuits from cable consortia to transmit corporate data. Some of these circuits were affected by the cable severance, but BT restored service by another route, added the spokesperson.

FLAG, or the Fiber-optic Link Around the Globe, is one of the main undersea internet cables linking the UK to the US and Japan. Sea-Me-We-4 provides the main internet backbone between Europe, the Middle East and south-east Asia. Both cables are believed to have been severed between Palermo and Alexandria when a tanker dragged its anchor over them during heavy weather, according to insiders. The tanker is now believed to have been secured.

Internet connectivity in some parts of India was reduced by up to 50 percent according to reports, while Egypt's telecoms ministry said 70 percent of its internet network was down.

Ovum analyst, David James, said that the cable industry is trying to improve its disaster-recovery procedures but that the sea floor around Alexandria contains a high concentration of cables due to the need to pass through the bottleneck of the Red Sea. "Although there is a certain amount of routing diversity and some 'spare' capacity on alternative routes, it does take time to re-route traffic through undamaged cables. The submarine cable industry took the Taiwan earthquake as a wake-up call, and has been working over the past year to improve service recovery times," said James.