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WACS submarine cable to be fully repaired this week

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 06 Sept 2023
The cable breaks significantly disrupted SA’s internet connectivity.
The cable breaks significantly disrupted SA’s internet connectivity.

Restoration work on the broken undersea cables is progressing well, with full restoration of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) submarine cable expected by the end of today, says Openserve.

According to the infrastructure provider, local fibre infrastructure providers have been taking action to resolve disruptions in internet connectivity services, following the recent unprecedented damage to three major west coast undersea internet cables, which thrust the country into connectivity chaos.

The damage to critical undersea cables – the Western African Cable System, South Atlantic 3 and later, the African Coast to Europe – exposed the redundancy of undersea cables during times of catastrophic disruptions.

In a statement sent to ITWeb, Openserve CEO Althon Beukes states: “Openserve has been collaborating with the consortium partners to facilitate the restoration of the cables and anticipates the WACS cable will be restored by today, 6 September.”

“The team has made remarkable progress and although the impact on Openserve was limited due to our investment in other international cable capacity, the restoration will reinstate our customers’ latency and redundancy on the WACS cable.”

The WACS system lands in SA at Yzerfontein, Western Cape, while the SAT-3/WACS system enters the country at Melkbosstrand, Western Cape.

The WACS cable consists of four fibre pairs and is 14 530km in length, linking from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape of SA, to London in the UK.

A strong turbidity current in the Congo River undersea canyon was cited as the possible cause for the breakage of the first two cables.

The cable breaks significantly disrupted SA’s internet connectivity and resulted in South African internet service providers diverting their internet traffic onto other subsea cables as part of their disaster recovery process to offer high redundancy.

Matone Ditlhake, CEO of telecoms infrastructure provider Corridor Africa, previously told ITWeb the impact of the cable failures reverberated across SA, affecting network operators and internet users alike, resulting in delayed website loading times and potential service interruptions.

“Weather permitting, we anticipate the cables will be fully restored to operational status by the second week of September. Corridor Africa Technologies is steadfastly monitoring the situation and working in close cooperation with South African telecommunications companies to minimise the impact of these disruptions,” Ditlhake noted at the time.

The Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) previously expressed concern on how the disaster highlights the vulnerability of SA’s internet infrastructure, exposing potential risks that could have far-reaching consequences, if not addressed.

“SA's dependence on undersea internet cables demands a robust and forward-thinking strategy. Embracing redundancy, diversification and innovative technologies can pave the way for a more resilient digital landscape,” said Paul Colmer, WAPA exco member.