Cable damage to be assessed Thursday

"The repair ship is on its way and is expected to arrive at the scene within 24 hours," Ivan Tan, a SingTel spokesman, said Wednesday afternoon Singapore time.

The cable was damaged Monday at a location about 70 kilometres south of Singapore, where the cable lies in 25-metre-deep waters between the island-state and Indonesia. SingTel and Indonesia's PT Indosat, two of the partners in the SEA-ME-WE 3 cable project, will work together to assess the damage and repair the cable. This work should be finished by early next week, according to Tan.

"It is reasonable to expect that the cable can be repaired within a week," he said. "But that will depend on the extent of the damage and we won't know that until the repair ship arrives."

Disruptions to Internet communications have mainly affected traffic to and from Australia. Telstra, the country's largest ISP (Internet service provider), uses the cable for as much of 60 per cent of its international Internet traffic. Tan said it was unlikely that the cable had been savaged by a shark, as some reports suggested.

Undersea cables have often been damaged in the past by fishing nets suspended from trawlers, as with the CANTAT3 cable off Iceland in August. The other major cause is seismic activity, such as the September 1999 Taiwan earthquake which damaged the Asia-Pacific Cable Network (APCN), which was used to carry most Internet links between Singapore and the U.S. Many parts of the Indonesian archipelago are seismically very active.

The 39,000-kilometre SEA-ME-WE (Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe) 3 cable is the world's longest and has 40 landing points in 34 countries, connecting Australia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

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