Restoring Africa’s Digital Pulse: The Race to Repair the Continent’s Undersea Cables

RestoringAfrica's Digital Pulse: TheRaceto Repairthe Continent's Undersea Cables


In the wake of last week’s undersea cable debacle off Africa’s west coast, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) across the continent have been ingeniously circumventing the connectivity crisis. The damage to four pivotal subsea cables – the West Africa Cable System, MainOne, South Atlantic 3, and ACE – has propelled ISPs to reroute data across alternative networks to maintain internet access.

Innovative Rerouting Strategies

Telecommunications giants have adopted diverse strategies to bypass the damaged cables, with some routing their traffic through Brazil and others leveraging a network of cross-border terrestrial cables. This makeshift network configuration has significantly ameliorated connectivity issues, providing a semblance of normalcy to millions of affected users. However, this comes at the cost of reduced internet speeds due to the reliance on lower-capacity backup routes.

Roderick Beck, a network capacity consultant, emphasized that full restoration of the network’s functionality hinges on repairing these crucial cables. They are the backbone of direct connectivity across many West African nations.

Seismic Activity and Restoration Efforts

The exact cause of the cable faults remains under investigation, but MainOne’s preliminary analysis points to potential seismic activity leading to an undersea landslide. Repair timelines are estimated between three to five weeks, indicating a significant period of impaired internet services across affected regions.

Impact Across the Continent

The outage has notably disrupted at least eight West African countries, including Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, with effects felt as far south as South Africa. Critical services like international calling, local money transfers, and e-commerce have experienced disruptions in countries such as Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Benin.

Efforts to stabilize the situation have seen ISPs redirecting traffic to alternative cables like Equiano, which connects to Togo, South Africa, and Nigeria. Angola Cables’ SACS line, linking Angola to Brazil and onwards to the US and Europe, has also been a pivotal alternative route.

Challenges and Adaptive Measures

The ramifications of the outage have extended to various sectors, with Ghana’s National Communications Authority rationing the scarce bandwidth to essential services. In Nigeria, the National Communications Commission reported a restoration of data and voice services to nearly full capacity, while Ivory Coast anticipates complete service recovery post-repair, expected by early April.

Repair Voyage on the Horizon

Repair initiatives are gearing up, with Global Marine’s CS Sovereign and Orange Marine’s Leon Thevenin poised to embark on the repair mission off the Ivory Coast. South African telecom giant Telkom, among others, awaits the three-week estimated repair window, weather permitting.

As Africa grapples with this digital upheaval, the collaborative efforts of ISPs, telecom companies, and repair vessels like the CS Sovereign and Leon Thevenin spotlight the resilience and resourcefulness in face of infrastructural challenges. The continent’s digital journey through this crisis underscores the critical importance of robust and redundant network infrastructures in sustaining connectivity in our increasingly interconnected world.


source mybroadband