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Middle East and African Submarine Cables Cut PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 14:16


A fiber optic undersea cable cut has severely disrupted east Africa's high-speed internet services after a ship dropped its anchor onto the cable off the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa.

The incident happened Saturday when the ship illegally anchored at the point where both The East African Marine System (TEAMS) and the Eastern African Submarine Cable System (EASSY) land in the country, Xinhua reported.

This problem was compounded by the fact that another cable, The East Africa Submarine System (Eassy) cable also experienced a cut near Djibouti and is currently undergoing repair. This cut occurred in 650 feet of water in the Red Sea between Djibouti and Port Sudan. Telecom operators, data carriers and internet service providers were forced to scramble to switch traffic to alternative Seacom which is now almost single-handedly carrying Kenya's data traffic.

The cut saw Internet in the country through most providers inaccessible for several hours while the few providers that had access to the net saw their traffic slowing to almost a crawl.

TEAMS' General Manager Joel Tanui said in a statement issued in Nairobi Monday that the undersea cable maintenance company E- Marine will commence repair work on the damaged cable to reduce the downtime and its impact. "The cable should be fully operational within the next three weeks," Tanui said.

He said the cut occurred when a ship that was docking, dragged its anchor on the cable, four km from the Mombasa landing station Saturday, affecting a significant proportion of the international fiber capacity in and out of the country.

Tanui said TEAMS had already notified its shareholders and the undersea cable maintenance company E-Marine to commence repair work on the damaged cable.

A landmark public-private partnership, TEAMS is the premier undersea cable system serving the entire East African region. Besides the government of Kenya, the other shareholders in the TEAMS consortium include Safaricom, Jamii Telecom, Wananchi, Essar, Kenya Data Networks, Access Kenya, Telkom Orange and Bandwidth & Cloud Services.

Kenya's largest mobile operator Safaricom which serves about 80 percent of the Internet in the country and Wananchi connects to the TEAMS cable while Orange connects via EASSY. Mobile operators Airtel Kenya and Safaricom Sunday announced that they are working to rectify the situation, by re-routing their Internet traffic to alternative capacities. About eight data operators have been affected and have also been looking at redundant routes. Affected operators include Safaricom, Airtel and Wananchi's Zuku.

Safaricom indicates that they have re-routed their connection to the SEACOM cable and satellite to keep its customers connected. TEAMS was a project initiated by the Kenyan government and implemented as a public private partnership consisting mostly of Kenyan network operators.