Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

Internet services in SA may continue to be unstable indefinitely as no timeline has yet been established for repairs to the broken undersea communications cables connecting SA to the rest of the world.

Openserve, Telkom’s network infrastructure provider, last week confirmed that it has been liaising with the West Africa Cable System and the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable  undersea cable consortia to determine the loss of service on both cable systems.

The systems are deployed in the Atlantic Ocean, connecting SA and many other African countries to Europe.

The date by when the cables will be repaired is not known at present and is subject to when the ship sets sail, weather conditions at the cable-break location and conditions on the seabed.

Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN, said it has begun to restore traffic through other channels and will continue to find optional routes of connectivity until the situation is resolved.

“MTN will not rest until we have restored all services for our customers and we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience,” the company said.

South Africans using local internet service providers such as Afrihost, Vox and Home Connect, which use Openserve’s network, may be affected, though Telkom says it is working to shift its internet traffic to other cable systems.

Through Telkom’s stake in a number of submarine cables, Openserve said it is making efforts to divert traffic to those that run in the Indian Ocean through to Asia and Europe to minimise the impact on users. This is why there is just “slow response” on international connectivity rather than a complete “no response” for clients.

Vodacom SA’s internet traffic has not been affected by the cable breaks as Vodacom has a geographically diverse international network with sufficient access to all five cable systems landing in SA, the operator said.

Suveer Ramdhani, chief strategy officer at Seacom, which was launched in 2009, said there are many reasons why cables break — from sharks chewing on cables to cables being disrupted by boat anchors; trawling by fishing vessels; natural disasters such as earthquakes and various forms of accidental damage.

“Fibre breaks heavily affect local internet service providers’ operations and it is these guys that take the most heat as they face the end users. However, it is completely out of their control,” Ramdhani said.

Some operators acquire capacity on each other's cables to create backup in case of a cable break, he said.