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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Massive Africa Internet Outage

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Disruption to internet services for millions of users in Africa could take weeks or even months to fix, following damage to undersea cables off the continent’s west coast.

Eight West African countries were suffering a second day of major connectivity issues on Friday with users in South Africa also affected, after damage to four sub-sea cables. The cause of the cable cutting was still not known, though a shifting of the seabed was among the likely possibilities.

“Repairs can take weeks to months, depending on where the damage is, what needs to be repaired, and local weather conditions,” said a spokesperson at internet analytics firm Cloudflare. “The assignment of repair ships depends on a number of factors, including ownership of the impacted cables.”

The West Africa Cable System, MainOne, South Atlantic 3 and ACE sea cables — arteries for telecommunications data — were all affected on Thursday and Friday.

MTN Group Ltd. – one of the largest wireless carriers in Africa – said that ACE and WACS have jointly initiated the repair process, and that they would send a vessel to fix the damaged cables.

Orange Marine said the firm was one of the specialist companies that would be involved in the repair operations for the cables, adding that other companies are also involved in efforts to restore the various cables. It said the repair time is not yet known.

Data show a major disruption to connectivity in eight West African countries, with Ivory Coast, Liberia and Benin being the most affected, NetBlocks, an internet watchdog, said in a post on X. Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon are among other countries impacted. Several companies have also reported service disruptions in South Africa.

Ghana’s main stock exchange extended trading hours by an hour on Thursday and Friday, while Nigeria’s second-largest cement maker scrapped a call with investors as the damage to four subsea cables off the west coast of Africa, stymied businesses across parts of the continent.

“This is a devastating blow to internet connectivity along the west coast of Africa, which will be operating in a degraded state for weeks to come,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis firm Kentik.

Ghana’s National Communications Authority said cable disruptions also occurred in Senegal and Portugal.

“This has led to a significant degradation of data services across the country, with mobile-network operators working around the clock to restore full services,” the authority said.

Red Sea

The cable faults off Ivory Coast come less than a month after three telecommunications cables were severed in the Red Sea, highlighting the vulnerability of critical communications infrastructure. The anchor of a cargo ship sunk by Houthi militants was probably responsible, according to assessments by the US and cable industry group the Internet Cable Protection Committee.

The Red Sea is a critical telecommunications route, connecting Europe to Africa and Asia via Egypt.

Together, the problems with cables on either side of the continent create a capacity crunch, with customers of those cables scrambling to find alternative routes.

Microsoft Corp. reported disruptions to its cloud services and Microsoft 365 applications across Africa.

The Downdetector website showed that a number of companies in South Africa were still severely affected on Friday, including Microsoft and Nedbank Group Ltd.

Telkom SA SOC Ltd.’s Openserve fiber unit and Standard Bank Group Ltd. were also affected, they said in statement, with Openserve adding it had re-routed traffic.

Off the southeastern coast of South Africa, the island country of Mauritius also experienced outages, with Mauritius Telecom Ltd. having to arrange to redirect traffic to other cables, it said.

Last year, WACS, along with another pipe – the South Atlantic 3 – were damaged near the mouth of the Congo River following an undersea landslide. The loss of the cables knocked out international traffic traveling along the west coast of Africa and took about a month to repair.

-Bloomberg

 

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