12 February 2020

Undersea cable repairs to boost internet will be completed next week

Cape Town – Repairs to the undersea cables that failed and left parts of the continent with slow internet are estimated to be completed by next week.

Last month, the South Atlantic 3 undersea fibre cable was damaged near Libreville, Gabon, while the West African Cable System (Wacs) was damaged near the Congolese coast, causing slow internet speeds across parts of Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was worst affected, while South African users reported problems with the MTN and Vodafone networks.

After initial difficulty in deploying a repair ship, due to Cape Town’s strong winds, the SA National Research and Education Network tweeted yesterday that repairs to the Wacs S4 UK Break were continuing.

“The cable vessel remains in port at Avonmouth due to the weather. The weather is expected to clear by tomorrow (today), with a tentative estimated time of return/repair of Feb 16.”

Meanwhile, high-performance internet connectivity was restored in the DRC within just four days after the Wacs undersea cable cut, thanks to the combined efforts of Gilat Telecom and SES, the companies said yesterday.

The swift restoration was achieved by leveraging unparalleled high-throughput, low-latency O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite capabilities.

“High-throughput, low-latency satellite solutions and applications enabled by SES have proved their reliability and performance, drastically changing the connectivity landscape in the DRC over the past years,” said Gilat Telecom chief executive Dan Zajicek.

An O3b MEO system customer of SES since 2014, and the first in Africa, Gilat Telecom recently expanded its partnership with SES to provide more bandwidth to rural areas and extend services beyond Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, reaching unserved or under-served Kisangani, Mbuji-Mayi and Bunia, to customers such as Orange DRC.

Under the new agreement, Gilat Telecom is using multiple Gbps of bandwidth on the O3b system and is now also adding services via SES’s Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites.

The expanded capabilities enabled by SES’s multi-orbit fleet will allow Gilat Telecom to deploy 4G/LTE networks and support cloud computing services, even in the remotest areas of the DRC.

SES Networks Sales Africa vice- president Carole Kamaitha said: “We cannot be more excited to see our long-standing partner and early adopter of O3b MEO growing, while unlocking more and more opportunities for MNOs in the DRC, this time taking advantage of the multi-orbit network that combines the benefits of MEO low-latency with the incredible reach of GEO.”