Houthi attacks: internet cables connecting Europe damaged

Houthi attacks near the Suez Canal damaged 4 internet and fiber optic cables connecting many European, African and Asian countries. In particular, the most strategic is the Asia-Africa-Europe AE-1 cable, 25,000 km long, which connects South-East Asia to Europe across the Red Sea.

Submarine cables

One of the war fronts affecting the Middle East runs on the bottom of the sea, along the network of fiber optic cables that transmit data throughout the world. Near the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea some of these cables have been cut. Those affected are AAE-1, E-Sicom, TGN Eurasia, while EIG (Europa India Gateway) is supposed to only have a power supply damage caused (perhaps) by the presence of a ship's anchor.

Houthi attacks
Credits: Telegeography

Submarine channels represent the safest way for data transport, in fact 98% of global data traffic passes through them. Fortunately, the system provides that the main routes have redundancies, i.e. in the event of a malfunction the data is re-entered onto another route, which is why telecommunications operators have not yet reported any stoppages. The real vulnerabilities involve only one or two cables in remote areas of Africa.

Generally the cables are located on the seabed and are mostly buried up to a thousand metres. The most vulnerable points are the landing points, the best known areas and the cables buried under a meter of sand.

Why we are so interested in the Suez Canal

The most important, but also the most vulnerable internet node in the world lies in the Suez Canal and in particular in Egypt and the Red Sea. It is made up of 16 cables, located on the seabed and theoretically vulnerable even to the passage of merchant ships. These cables constitute the most important connections between Asia and Europe, passing for 1200 miles under the Red Sea. Among these, one also arrives in Genoa.

Therefore these cables connect Italy to South East Asia and China, passing through the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, these "routes" affect both civil and military communications. Any future repairs could prove difficult if cables are damaged in areas with high levels of insurgent activity. In fact, repairing the cables requires the presence of ships in the area for a few days and in the event of an attack it would be difficult to defend oneself and carry out evasive manoeuvres.

Among the main consequences will be the quality of the connection, thus taking our connections back who knows how many years. This is because the quality depends on the extent of the damage and the number of cables affected.

What are the actual risks

Risks to cables can come from underwater mines or underwater incursions to cut them. In general, 17 percent of the world's fiber optic Internet traffic passes through the Red Sea and the cables are also directed to Italy. In fact, the section concerned is defined as the most vital bottleneck for the EU as the underwater seabed in front of the coast of Yemen is one of the major passages for the Europe-Asia internet connection system .

Houthi attacks and trade in Italy


The route discussed does not only affect the internet but also trade, particularly Italian trade. In fact, the Suez Canal is also used by cargo ships for the export of Sardinian agri-food and the import of raw materials. There is in fact a lot of concern about exports to countries such as China or Arab countries, but also about the import of basic necessities. In fact, the Italian goods, which leave from Sardinia, cross the Suez Canal and reach the eastern countries, have been quantified at approximately 740 million euros.

The article Houthi attacks: internet cables connecting Europe damaged was written on: Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .