Expect internet outages in SA as two undersea cables snap on same day | News 24

By | August 13, 2023

Two underwater cables broke last week.

  • Two submarine cables broke simultaneously last week.
  • This has caused some disruption to the Internet in South Africa.
  • Repairs to the cables are expected to be completed next month.
  • For more stories, visit Tech and Trends Homepage.

Two undersea communication cables critical to network operators in South Africa broke on the same day, resulting in internet disruptions. Some sites may load slowly and others may not load at all.

The West African Cable System (WACS) and South Atlantic Telecommunications Cable Number Three (SAT-3) both broke on August 6 in the Congo Canyon, reportedly due to a rockfall in the canyon.

Openserve confirmed that the break in the cables occurred and said that a consortium of partners is working to restore those cables.

Although invisible and unknown to most, the network of underwater fiber optic cables is critical to enabling the global internet by allowing the high-speed transmission of large amounts of telecommunications signals around the world.

Anne-Caroline Tanguy, director of public relations for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia at Cloudflare, one of the largest networks operating on the Internet, said Cloudflare “noticed a serious deterioration in the cut”. A network performance problem. report was submitted for Johannesburg.

“As all South African networks are currently experiencing a capacity crisis due to this cut, we saw an increase in traffic which took some time to mitigate,” Tanguy said.

Alternatives available

The WACS and SAT-3 cables are not the only submarine cables running to South Africa, meaning that some service providers may have significant capacity on other cables.

Google’s Equiano submarine cable broke ground in South Africa in August 2022.

READ NOW | Google’s undersea cable lands in Melkbosstrand – promising cheaper and faster internet for SA

Openserve said the extent to which the telcos using the cables are affected by the cable outages depends on the extent to which the companies have capacity on other cable systems.

Tanguy said some cables are significantly more expensive to use than other cables, and some companies will only have the capacity of one or two cables.


Vodacom spokesman Byron Kennedy said some “disruption to traffic flows” could be expected from cable breaks.

“The unplanned, sudden removal of key routes such as WACS and SAT-3 can be expected to result in initial disruptions to traffic flows,” Kennedy said.

Openserve said the impact of the outages on its network is limited to customers on the international private leased circuit services. It said Openserve’s network “remains robust due to our investment in other international cable capacity”.

Vodacom also said it makes use of geographically diverse international routes.

Some of the proactive steps taken by Vodacom include deploying additional capacity on unaffected cable routes and performing traffic engineering to mitigate potential bottlenecks.


But Cloudflare warned that there may still be websites hosted in the US or Europe that feel slow or not working at all, as international capacity to go to Africa or Europe is significantly reduced.

“This will cause websites to feel slower or just not work at all. Networks are actively working to bring up new capacity to handle the outage while work is underway to repair the breach, which could take weeks to repair,” Tanguy said.

Kennedy said the cables are being maintained by a cable ship called the Leon Thevenin, which is currently busy with repair work near Kenya.

Kennedy said the cables are expected to be repaired by the second week of September, weather permitting.

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