Sunday, December 21, 2008

Muscat starts GCC Security lock down. Internet affected until New Year

Further on the big internet problem that started Friday, affecting not just Oman but, as in the story in yesterday’s Times of Oman, taking out pretty much the whole Middle East.

It seems at least 3 and maybe 5 submarine cables between Africa and Europe were severely damaged by geological activity or a fishing boat near Sicily. According to the latest update issued by OmanHel, the time to repair all the damaged cables and therefore to bring internet service to normal operation is estimated to be approximately 10 days. Meanwhile, internet speed will increase gradually as the repair effort progresses and as re-routing is performed.

So, it seems not only will we soon be trapped in our houses for a few days as visiting GCC dignitaries (and their associated posse) all move around the coast for the GCC Conference, we also won’t have much in the way of fast internet to help keep us entertained either!

The greater Muscat area is already on ‘lock down’. All cars and trucks entering the Muscat Municipality area from outside are being stopped and checked by major ROP/Army road blocks since Thursday. Security will be THE priority over the next 1 ½ weeks. Surveillance at the airport and border crossings has been increased significantly too. During the conference, roads will be closed; check points and road blocks the norm. You may see a few tanks and APCs stationed at critical points. Boats have been banned from the coastal area too, from the Hyatt Hotel all the way to Sur.

Xmas to New Year will not a good time to be going into surprise labor or to be struck by a heart attack folks!

Rather embarrassingly for the local cops given the focus on high levels of security, I’ve heard reports that last week several Yemeni prisoners who were being held at the ROP’s Qurm detention center escaped from custody, breaking out of prison complete with bright orange jump suits and still chained together. Hmmm. Perhaps not the best time to have escaped convicts from Yemen running around? No wonder the ROP were searching the area house to house. Nothing I could find on this story in the local press funnily enough, and no reports on whether or not they found the jail birds in the end… You would have though telling people they’d lost a few prisoners would be a good idea if you wanted the public to help find them, wouldn’t you? But I guess that would make it look too much like someone in Government screwed up.

Internet service badly disrupted
Times News Service
Saturday, December 20, 2008 10:58:30 AM Oman Time

MUSCAT: Internet service in Oman and other Gulf countries was badly disrupted yesterday and Omantel officials attributed failure of undersea cables in the Mediterranean Sea for the fault. Residents said Internet service was either non-existent or very slow. The gravity of the outage varied from area to area and according to the service provider.

Three cables linking Italy and Egypt failed for as yet unknown reasons, a senior Reliance GlobalCom official in Dubai said yesterday. Internet service between Europe and the Middle East was also disrupted yesterday. France Telecom said break in three undersea cables had disrupted telephone traffic between Europe and the Asia-Middle East region. The situation may not improve before Christmas Day and communications may not be back to normal until New Year’s Eve, the French company said in a statement. Shaheed Al Sateeh, Middle East sales director for Reliance GlobalCom, said: “We know three cables have been cut. We still don’t know why or where. They cover all the Middle East and India and other countries.”

“We have no more information. A ship has been sent out to locate the place where the cables were cut,” he said.

Egypt’s state news agency Mena reported that the cuts happened off the coast of Sicily at 10am (0800GMT) yesterday. Reliance GlobalCom has directed a submarine cable repair company to head to the region to fix the cables, Mena reported. The agency reported that services were being rerouted to backup cables and satellite to compensate for the failures.

The services are expected to improve by around 0330GMT today, Mena added. France Telecom said the breach happened “between Italy and Tunisia on sections linking Sicily to Egypt.”

“Traffic from Europe towards Algeria and Tunisia was not affected but from Europe towards the Middle East and Asia is more or less interrupted,” the French national telecoms operator said.

The company said it had alerted the Raymond Croze, one of its two maintenance ships present in the Mediterranean zone. France Telecom said the situation is likely to improve from December 25 and return to normal on December 31.


  1. Did you by any chance mess up your blog's template/HTML ?

  2. Yeah, it's all a little off...

  3. Ran some tests, packets from Oman to the USA are being routed via Japan, so there seems to be a redundant path. Granted, the kind of route would entail significant latency and could cause connection timeouts to US-based services.

  4. Yeah, for a while it was like all https attempts were failing.

    Significantly better today.

  5. Yes, I just got my gmail back today (Tues). I depend so much on email, it is a bit scary and frustrating when it is down. But Murphy said nothing is fool proof and life goes on anyway.


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