Deep Ocean Drama: Seismic Activity Linked to Africa’s Undersea Cable Breaks

DeepOcean Drama: Seismic ActivityLinkedto Africa'sUndersea Cable Breaks

Recent developments in the investigation of Africa’s undersea cable outages have brought new insights to light. MainOne, a submarine fibre cable operator, has indicated that seismic activity on the seabed may be responsible for the breaks in its submarine fibre cable, affecting multiple cables and causing significant internet disruptions across Africa. Mike Last, WIOCC's group chief marketing officer, emphasized that these activities did not contribute to the connectivity issues plaguing Africa’s west coast and South Africa. The search for the actual cause of the outages continues, with multiple subsea systems being affected.

Seismic Activity: A New Culprit

On 14 March 2024, four critical undersea telecommunications cables—West Africa Cable System (WACS), Africa Coast to Europe (ACE), MainOne, and SAT-3—went offline simultaneously, tracing back to a location off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire, near Abidjan. MainOne’s preliminary analysis has dismissed the likelihood of human activities like shipping, fishing, or drilling, being responsible due to the cables’ deep location, approximately 3 kilometers below the sea surface.

The Challenge of Deep-Sea Repairs

The U.S. Geological Survey’s lack of earthquake detection in the vicinity last week doesn’t eliminate other seismic activities as potential causes. This mystery deepens the intrigue, with MainOne promising more details post the recovery operation of the cable for repairs. Ghana’s communications regulator anticipates a minimum five-week timeline for the restoration of these vital internet arteries.

Impact and Response

The outage took a toll on services across the continent, with significant consequences for Microsoft’s cloud services in South Africa and disruptions to Vodacom’s network. Despite rapid response efforts to restore services and reroute traffic, the incident exposed the vulnerability of Africa’s internet infrastructure to deep-sea events.

Broader Implications and Next Steps

This situation underscores the complexity and unpredictability of maintaining undersea cable networks. The deployment of the cable ship Sophie Germain signifies the commencement of a challenging repair journey, highlighting the critical nature of these cables in ensuring connectivity and the need for enhanced monitoring and rapid response mechanisms.

As we await further details on the cause and solutions, this incident serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between our advanced technological reliance and the unpredictable forces of nature. The ongoing efforts to restore full connectivity will be closely watched by all stakeholders in the digital ecosystem.

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