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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 13:38 GMT
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Disruption to internet services in south Asia and the Middle East is continuing the day after Mediterranean undersea cables were damaged.

Operations outsourced to India from the UK and US are badly hit, said an industry body, adding that 50% of India's bandwidth was affected.

Egypt has about 40% of its internet capacity, following damage to a cable thought to be off its northern coast.

It could take a week or more to restore full services, say experts.

Further disruption has been reported in Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

'Bad delay'

India is the world leader in offshore outsourcing, with the remote servicing of IT or other business processes worth an estimated 24bn.

"The companies that serve the US east coast and the UK are worst affected," said Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers' Association of India.

He told the Associated Press (AP): "The delay is very bad in some cases.

"They have to arrange back-up plans or they have to accept the poor quality for the time being until the fibre is restored."

Major companies including IBM and Intel were still trying to assess how their operations had been impacted, AP reported.

An official in Egypt's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said that the cause of the cable damage would not be known until repair ships and divers could get to the site.

Rough seas and weather were delaying that operation, he said, adding that the repairs could take as much as a week.

'Two cuts'

On Wednesday, a Dubai internet service provider (ISP), DU, blamed services disruption on "cuts in two international submarine cable systems in the Mediterranean Sea".

The company said: "We are working actively with the submarine cable system operators (FLAG Telecom and SEA-ME-WE 4) to ascertain the reasons for the cables being cut," it said.

FLAG Telecoms operate the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG), a 28,000km (17,400 mile) long submarine communications cable.

SEA-ME-WE 4, or the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 project, is a submarine cable linking South East Asia to Europe via the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

Neither of the cable operators have confirmed the cause or location of the outage but some reports suggest it was caused by a ship's anchor near the port of Alexandria in Egypt.

There was disruption to 70% of the nationwide internet network in Egypt on Wednesday, while India suffered up to 60% disruption.

International telephone calls, which have also been affected, are being rerouted to work around the problem.

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