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News of the Day ... In Perspective

1/14/2007

Asian quake exposes global networks’ fragility

Despite limited physical damage from a 6.7 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Taiwan, international telephone service was cut off or restricted in some regions, internet service slowed to a crawl in much of China, and financial and currency markets were disrupted.

The stability of communications is becoming a primary concern at this time when more and more businesses are reliant on far-flung operations and vendors.

Even some of the system redundancies designed to backup the primary undersea cables, eight of which were damaged, failed to work as planned. Satellites are also used to transmit information long distance, but such wireless systems lack the speed and capacity offered by cable and are more expensive.

Repairs to cables will take weeks.

Huge amounts of fiber-optic cables were laid during the telecom boom of the 1990s, but when demand did not increase as quickly as anticipated, several companies went bankrupt, and new investments slowed sharply.

Most companies were able to find ways to work around the damage, but better backups are clearly needed.

See: Jason Dean, Wall Street Journal 12/28/06.

Jeffrey Ng et al. Wall Street Journal 12/29/06.

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