Slow internet in SA: Still no end in sight, Openserve admits, as cable repair ship gets ready to leave Cape Town

Business Insider SA
Source: Marine Traffic
Source: Marine Traffic
  • Before it can give an accurate estimate when South Africa’s slowed internet will be back up to speed, a repair crew will need to reach the broken undersea cables that caused the trouble, Openserve said. 
  • It could take a ship up to 6 days to reach the location of one of the breaks. 
  • The good news is that harbour activity has resumed in Cape Town.
  • That means the cable repair ship Leon Thevenin, can leave once it has gathered equipment and its crew, which it has begun. 
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage. 

Before it can give an accurate estimate of when South Africa’s slow internet will be back up to speed, the repair crew it hired must first reach an undersea cable break and assess the severity of the damage, backbone provider Openserve said on Monday.

And that will take a while.

An unusual simultaneous dual cable break affected 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) last week. 

The Sat-3/Wasc break is believed to be in the vicinity of Libreville, Gabon, while the Wacs cable break is believed to be isolated near Congo between two repeater sites, reported Afrihost.

A second break has been reported to be affecting Wacs from the UK side.

Telkom/Openserve is just one equity partner in the groups that own these submarine cable systems. The company said it was dependent on the consortium partners for restoration. However, it has made its resources available to both consortiums to assist wherever possible to get back online. 

The breaks affect clients connected to Openserve's network, which includes many local internet service providers, whose customers are now experiencing reduced speed on international browsing. The slowdown has also affected international voice calling and mobile roaming.

At least South Africans frustrated with slow internet speeds can breathe a sigh of relief as harbour activity in Cape Town returned to normal on Monday, after several days of strong winds. 

The cable repair ship has received authorisation to shift from its current dock to a cable depot quay where is can load equipment and assemble its crew, said the South African National Research and Education Network (SA NREN) on Monday.

Live data from shows where the ship can be found now. 

Source: Marine Traffic
Source: Marine Traffic

SA NREN believes it could take a ship 6 days to reach the location of one of the breaks, and take another week to repair it – meaning it could be as long as two weeks before some capacity is restored. 

The cable break is believed to be as deep as 3,750 metres below sea level.

“It is important to note that even the simplest of repairs at great depths in the middle of the ocean would be quite complex. Much would depend on the wind speeds and weather conditions faced during the repair,” said Openserve in a statement.

Openserve said it was in the process of diverting traffic, wherever possible, to its alternative cables that run in the Indian Ocean through to Asia and Europe to minimise the impact on clients.

Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: