Rotors of M-209 cipher machine.

Telecommunications Outages

Submarine Cable Outages

Cable Map
Telcoms Forum

These happen far more frequently than most people realize. See the interactive Submarine Cable Map for fascinating details about cables, and the Submarine Telecoms Forum for reports on cable faults. Follow @philBE2 on Twitter, "A keen observer of global Submarine Cable Systems developments." Also see the list of international submarine cables for links to Wikipedia articles on many cables.

1929 — An earthquake in Newfoundland broke twelve trans-Atlantic cables by triggering a massive undersea avalanche.

2005 — A portion of the SEA-ME-WE 3 submarine cable (running from Germany, down the Atlantic coast and across the Mediterranean and Red Sea, to Arabia, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, then through Southeast and East Asia and to Australia) broke 35 kilometers south of Karachi. This disrupted almost all of Pakistan's communications with the rest of the world.

ASIN: 0822357550

2006 — The SEA-ME-WE 3 submarine cable was severed 26 December by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake off the coast of Taiwan, causing a major disruption in Internet service to East Asia.

2007 — Pirates stole an 11 kilometer section of the T-V-H (Thailand - Vietnam - Hong Kong) cable in hopes of selling the 100 tons of cable as scrap. LIRNEasia has a story about this.

2008 —

ASIN: 0060524464

ASIN: 1610393589

2009 — In late July, the SAT-3 cable was damaged, causing Internet connectivity problems or complete outages in multiple west African countries including Benin, Togo, Niger, and Nigeria. Togo and Niger were completely offline, while Benin maintained some connectivity only by rerouting traffic through neighboring countries. All three used alternative satellite links to maintain some connectivity. Nigeria had a 70% bandwidth loss, causing problems in banking, government, and mobile networks (and probably slowing down all those offers allegedly from the Widow Abacha to share $12 MILLION US DOLLAR with random e-mail recipients).

2010 — The SEA-ME-WE 4 system crossing the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and landing at several points along the northern Indian Ocean, was cut in three places off Palermo, Italy.

2011 — The Tōhoku earthquake in March 2011 damaged several undersea cables, including APCN-2 (a ring joining Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines), Pacific Crossing West and Pacific Crossing North, segments of the East Asia Crossing network, a segment of the Japan-U.S. Cable Network, and the PC-1 cable joining two points in Japan with two points on the U.S. west coast.

2012 — TEAMS (The East African Marine Systems) cable was cut in February by the anchor of a ship waiting to enter Mombasa, see the BBC story. Three fibers in the Red Sea had been cut ten days before that per the WSJ on Feb 28th, Eassy or the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System, the Europe India Gateway (EIG), and the South East Asia Middle East Western Europe-3 (SMW-3). Renesys has an article describing these cuts and the impact on connectivity. TEAMS was cut again just 35 days after being repaired. Then in June, SMW-4 was cut near Singapore, largely disconnecting Bangladesh and severely degrading some providers' customers in Singapore, Pakistan, Kuwait and the UAE.

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Satellite Outages

See these comments from a former CIA analyst on the vulnerability of civilian satellites.

Also see this 2002 GAO report on commercial satellite vulnerability.

1995 — Intelsat 511 was disabled for a few hours by an electrostatic discharge event, taking out some Australia-USA links. The event fired a thruster and turned the satellite out of alignment for the links to Earth.

1997 — A $200,000,000 Telstar satellite (and thus all its comm links) was taken out by an unexpected solar flare on 11 January. I was teaching a course that week, and many students complained the next day that the pay-per-view movies no longer worked in their hotel rooms.... Science, 31 January 1997, pg 623, and Science News, 1 February 1997, pg 68.

1998 — Galaxy VII failed 13 June and dropped several hours of several cable TV networks. Some other satellite failed 4 July 1998, dropping several hours of DirectTV. In both cases, a control processor failed, but they eventually could switch to a backup processor. WSJ, 9 Jul 1998, Reuters.

1998 — Galaxy IV failed in May and took out over 80% of North American pagers for several days. See the reports here, here, here, here and here. Wire news service including Reuters was affected. CBS and NPR had to use backup transmission links. The primary control processor had failed due to tin whisker growth.

ASIN: 0470714581

2004 — Intelsat Americas-7 (formerly Telstar 7, later Galaxy 27) experienced a several-day power failure on 29 November 2004. See the reports here and here.

2006 — The Optus B1 satellite lost contact 30 March and among other things cut off some television service to New Zealand. Also see these reports.

2007 — XM Satellite Radio was off the air for a day in May, see the Washington Post article for details. "The company blamed a software glitch for the interruption."

2007 — Dish Network was out 19 and 22 August for two hours and a half hour respectively.

2007 — Alaskan public television was out on 20 August due to some satellite problems.

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