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Sudan suffers third day of severe internet, phone congestion

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February 2, 2008 (DUBAI) — Internet users in Sudan, Africa’s largest country, reported a third day of severely congested telecommunications Saturday.

"Internet in Sudan is very, very slow and businesses relying on it are losing money," John Badawi, co-owner of electrical goods company Mago Engineering Trading, told Zawya Dow Jones, from Sudan’s capital Khartoum.

International phone calls to Sudan also experienced difficulties in maintaining connections.

On Jan. 30, two international submarine cables, FLAG Europe-Asia and SEA-ME-WE 4, or South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-4, in the Mediterranean Sea were damaged, causing significant disruptions to Internet and phone traffic in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India and all the Gulf states. The two cables accounted for the majority of international communications capacity between Europe and the Middle East.

Two days later a third cable, FALCON, was cut between Muscat, Oman, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, compounding connectivity difficulties with the region and the rest of the world.

Both FLAG Europe-Asia and FALCON are owned by Flag Telecom, a subsidiary of India’s No. 2 telecom Reliance Communications (532712.BY).

SEA-ME-WE 4 is owned by a consortium of 16 global telecom carriers including Algeria Telecom (AT), Bharti Tele Ventures (India), Bangladesh Telecom (BTTB), Telecom Thailand (CAT), France Telecom, MCI, Pakistan Telecom (PTCL), Singapore Telecom (SingTel), Sri Lankan Telecom (SLT), Saudi Telecom (STC), Telecom Egypt, Telecom Italia Sparkle, Telecom Malaysia, Tunisia Telecom, VSNL (India) and Etisalat (U.A.E.).

Sudan’s Canar Telecommunications Co., or Canar, invested millions of dollars in Flag Telecom’s FALCON cable system in 2005.

Mohammed Bouhelal, an executive director at Canar, in which Emirates Telecommunications Corp., or Etisalat, recently raised its shareholder stake from 37% to 82%, said after the Flag Europe-Asia cable was cut Canar’s connectivity was down to a third of normalcy and it had to reroute traffic to another cable, SEA-ME-WE 3.

"We are only relying now on Etisalat’s capacity in SEA-ME-WE 3. Our Internet is very slow," Bouhelal said. "Dial-up customers are suffering the most."

(Dow Jones)

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