Submarine cables
The location of the breaks. (Map of undersea cables by submarinecablemap.com)
  • Some South African internet users have been struggling with slow connections since Thursday as a series of undersea cable breaks take down crucial links.
  • A ship is ready and loaded with the equipment to fix one of those breaks – but is now stuck in Cape Town harbour due to bad weather.
  • Meanwhile some SA users have lost access to Twitter entirely as of Saturday.
  • At least Namibia is back online.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Repairs on one break in an important undersea internet cable will have to wait until the weather in Cape Town improves.

A ship is standing ready to depart for a cable break off the coast of the Congo, the South African National Research and Education Network reported on Saturday – but can not yet leave Cape Town harbour due to high winds.

Winds of more than 30km/h – with gusts reaching 70km/h – have been ripping off roofs and uprooting trees in the city.

See also: South Africa struggling with slow internet after two undersea cables failed - here's who is affected

Current weather forecasts suggest the wind will only subside on Monday, with Tuesday predicted to be sunny and pleasant.

With the cable repair vessel "wind bound", some internet users in South Africa on Saturday found they had no access to Twitter, in an outage that seems connected with the subsea cable outages. Staff at Memeburn reported they could find no way to connect to Twitter from South Africa, while users in the likes of Gaborone in Botswana also complained they could not reach the service.

Meanwhile, Namibia was said to have been reconnected to the global internet on Saturday after a widespread outage in that country, though Telecom Namibia would not say exactly how it was now routing traffic along the east coast of Africa.

Both the South Atlantic 3/West Africa (SAT-3/Wasc) submarine cable (which links Portugal and Spain to South Africa) and the West Africa Cable System (Wacs) (which links South Africa with the United Kingdom) experienced breaks this week, in what appears at present to have been a freak coincidence.

See also: Slow internet set to continue in SA after another breakdown in an undersea cable - this time near the UK

Exactly how long repairs will take – with or without a windy Cape Town – is not yet clear. On Saturday Telkom's Openserve said in a statement it "appreciates the patience of all affected clients and their customers as undersea cable infrastructure repairs are complex and can be time consuming."

Afrihost and Axxess, two hard-hit internet service providers, said only that "further tests are being conducted" on affected cables.

ISP Cool Ideas said it had rerouted internet traffic from Cape Town via Johannesburg, while it was using an alternative international path out of Johannesburg too. That meant latency, the amount of time before international servers will respond to requests, would increase by around 50 milliseconds for its Cape Town customers, and by 17 milliseconds for those in Johannesburg.

At least one of the cables will apparently remain out of commission until February – suggesting that internet speeds will not be normal for all South African users any time soon. 

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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