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Only one cable-laying ship can fix snapped underwater cables and it’s still on the other side of Africa

Two undersea cables that run between Europe and South Africa snapped on the same day over a week ago.

The cables are critical for enabling global internet connectivity.

Network operators in South Africa are working to minimise the impact of the snaps on their operations.

Vodacom, MTN, and Openserve have taken steps to minimise the impact of undersea cable snaps on their operations.

On 6 August, a rockfall in the Congo Canyon broke critical infrastructure for network operators as two subsea cables snapped on the same day.

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) and the South Atlantic Telecommunications Cable number three (SAT-3) both snapped and will not be able to transport information until the cables are repaired.

The two subsea cables are part of a network of thousands of kilometres of fibre-optic cables that run along the sea floor.

These cables enable the internet to work across the globe by allowing for the high-speed transfer of information.

Without these cables, it would be impossible to access information that is stored very far away.

Network operators such as Vodacom, MTN, and Openserve make use of these undersea cables to provide network services to customers.

While there are many of these undersea cables that run across the globe, companies do not necessarily have access to capacity on all of the cables as it can be hugely expensive to rent capacity.

Both MTN and Vodacom confirmed to News24 that they were part of the consortium management structures for the WACS cable, and that their operations had been affected by the break.

“The unplanned, sudden removal of key routes like WACS and SAT-3 can be expected to result in initial disruption in traffic flows,” said Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy.

Amaru Chavez-Pujol, the group chief technology and information officer of Bayobab, an infrastructure unit of MTN which was formerly MTN GlobalConnect, also recognised the impact of the cable breaks on MTN’s operations.

“The impact on our services along the West Coast has been acknowledged, affecting multiple MTN regional operations and international wholesale customers,” said Chavez-Pujol.

Bayobab has no involvement with the SAT-3 cable, Chavez-Pujol confirmed.

Both companies and Openserve said that they had taken steps to mitigate the impact of the WACS snap on their networks.


The network operators said that they were rerouting traffic from WACS to other unaffected traffic routes to minimise the impact of the cable break.

“The Openserve network remains robust due to our investment in another international cable capacity, hence all Openserve IP transit services traffic has been automatically rerouted,” said Openserve in a statement.

Kennedy said Vodacom had implemented additional capacity on unaffected cable routes, following the disruption to WACS and SAT-3.

Chavez-Pujol said that MTN customers were protected by rerouting traffic via their east coast undersea cables.

He said:

We swiftly implemented mitigation strategies and successfully rerouted traffic for our South African customers via our resilient east coast infrastructure, with limited interruptions.

Repairs to the cable are expected to be completed on 8 September, depending on weather conditions. The ship which will be used to repair the cables is currently performing maintenance on a cable near Kenya.


cable-laying ship
cable-laying ship


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