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Multiple cable failures impact Africa's Internet

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Multiple subsea cable failures are impacting Africa's Internet services due to reported cable breaks off the coast of Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on the west coast of Africa.

A number of Internet service providers (ISPs) have confirmed disruptions to the international submarine cables including the West Africa Cable System (WACS), South Atlantic-3 (SAT-3), MainOne and Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) systems.

Internet monitoring firm NetBlocks said on Thursday that its live network data showed a major disruption to Internet connectivity in and around West and Central Africa.

"The incident affects networks supplying telecoms via subsea cables to multiple countries and operators," NetBlocks said.

It said Côte d'Ivoire was experiencing a severe outage, while Liberia, Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso were seeing a high impact.

The four cable systems carry traffic between Europe and African and many Southern African countries were also experiencing problems.

Service providers respond

Whilst the cause of the reported cable breaks had not yet been confirmed, Angola Cables said it was ensuring the impact on Angola and other African countries was being minimized by redirecting international data and traffic to the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), which connects Angola directly to Brazil and from there to the United States and Europe.

"Angola Cables has network backup and restoration solutions available through cables that have not been affected by the faults off the Ivory Coast," the group told Connecting Africa.

"Our technical team is currently diligently working with industry partners to stabilize international connectivity and to ensure that we can provide support and guarantee the stability of services to African network operators and entities that need it," it added.

South African fiber provider Openserve also confirmed the failures of the WACS and SAT-3 undersea cables were impacting its network but said the impact was limited to customers on the international private leases circuits (IPLC) services.

"The Openserve network remains robust due to our investment in other international cable capacity, hence traffic has been automatically re-routed, ensuring our customers stay seamlessly connected. No official statement has been communicated by the consortium," Openserve said on its LinkedIn page.

The WACS submarine cable links Africa and Europe over 16,000 km via 15 terminal stations forming a consortium of 18 international telecom carriers.   (Source: WACS)
The WACS submarine cable links Africa and Europe over 16,000 km via 15 terminal stations forming a consortium of 18 international telecom carriers.
(Source: WACS)

Bayobab Group (formerly MTN GlobalConnect) also acknowledged the ongoing disruptions affecting connectivity services in several West African countries.

It said it was committed to swiftly addressing the disruptions as it recognized the critical importance of consistent Internet and communication services in Africa.

"To mitigate the impact on our customers in the affected countries, our operations are actively working to reroute traffic through alternative network paths and engaging with our consortium partners to expedite the repair process for the damaged cables," Bayobab said in a statement.

Other impacted networks include Mweb, Seacom, Telkom SA, Vodacom, Vumatel and Vox.

Google's Equiano cable has reportedly not been impacted by the outages, which means the system can be used by companies like Seacom to reroute traffic that would usually be carried on the impacted cables.

Meanwhile, there are also some Internet issues on Africa's East coast after a number of cables under the Red Sea were cut in late February.

This has impacted traffic on the AAE-1, Europe India Gateway (EIG) and Seacom systems. The Seacom outage impacted its segment that runs from Mombasa, Kenya, to Zafarana, Egypt. As of March 8, Seacom said it was still awaiting permits to repair the cable.

In August 2023, there was also a dual cable break on WACS and SAT-3 that caused major disruptions to Internet services.

Microsoft Azure services impacted in SA

On Thursday, Microsoft confirmed that its Azure services in South Africa North and South Africa West were experiencing increased network latency and packet drops.

South Africans reported access issues with Outlook, Teams and other Microsoft 365 services.

"We have determined that multiple fiber cables on the West Coast of Africa - WACS, MainOne, SAT3, ACE - have been impacted which reduced total capacity supporting our Regions in South Africa," Microsoft said in a statement.

"In addition to these cable impacts, the on-going cable cuts in the Red Sea - EIG, Seacom, AAE-1 - are also impacting overall capacity on the East Coast of Africa. These incidents together had reduced the total network capacity for most of Africa's regions," the company added.

On Friday, Microsoft said the overall network health for the region had been steadily improving and many of the Azure services that were affected earlier by this issue had returned to their normal levels.

Microsoft said it was working to alleviate the ongoing capacity bottleneck in the region and estimated services would be returned by 4 p.m. CAT on Friday, March 15, 2024.

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*Top image source: freepik.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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