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SA’s connectivity fully restored after subsea cable fix

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 19 Feb 2020

South Africa’s international connectivity has been fully restored after the fixing of the SAT3/WASC subsea cable that broke last month.

In a statement this morning, Openserve, one of the organisations affected by the cable break, says: “In the early hours of this morning (approximately 01:30) Openserve received confirmation, from aboard cable ship Leon Thevenin, that the portion of the SAT3/WASC repair offshore Congo has now been completed.”

It notes this concludes a long and complex restoration process of an unprecedented simultaneous cable break of two Atlantic Ocean-based submarine cable systems – the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable (SAT3/WASC) and the West African Cable System (WACS).

Openserve has since been liaising with the WACS and SAT3/WASC undersea cable consortia to determine the cause of the loss of service on both submarine cable systems.

The WACS and SAT3/WASC cable systems are deployed in the Atlantic Ocean and connect SA and many other African countries to Europe.

The WACS system lands in SA at Yzerfontein, Western Cape, while the SAT3/WASC system enters the country at Melkbosstrand, Western Cape.

This catastrophe, which caused South African Internet users reduced speed on international browsing and impacted international voice calling and mobile roaming, occurred in the early hours of 16 January.

According to Openserve, South Africans can now breathe a sigh of relief as international connectivity capacity returns to normal.

It notes the maintenance and operations sub-committees of both cable consortia had tasked their respective restoration processes to a single chief of mission on the Leon Thevinin.

The vessel departed Cape Town Harbour on the evening of Wednesday, 22 January, and has since been out on open water effecting the repair processes, at multiple break locations.

The ship will now proceed to its next location, offshore Ghana, to undertake a power-related (shunt fault) repair on the WACS cable, the Telkom subsidiary says.

It notes this fault is not affecting traffic on WACS. “If conditions allow, the entire mission is still set to be completed around 25 February, with the vessel returning to dock in Cape Town.

“In the early stages of the repair mission, Openserve’s global capacity team concluded commercial deals with several parties as a measure to minimise some of the impact on its network, and that of its clients’. As part of its internal close-out procedure the relevant teams in Openserve will, over the next few weeks, analyse the full impact of this unusual dual break on its international connectivity capacity.”

The company says this exercise will be conducted with a view to minimising, and possibly mitigating, the impact on the South African broadband ecosystem should the country find itself dealing with a similar catastrophic event in future.

“Openserve is grateful that the submarine cables have been returned to full capacity. The infrastructure provider thanks its clients for the patience exercised during this time and is most pleased that it could collaborate with industry partners and other cable consortia to minimise the impact as much as it did.