ACE Submarine Cable Cut Impacts Ten Countries
By David Belson, Oracle
April 5, 2018
The ACE (African Coast to Europe) submarine cable runs along the west coast of Africa between France and South Africa, connecting 22 countries. It extends over 17,000 km, and has a potential capacity of 5.12 Tbps. The cable system is managed by a consortium of 19 telecommunications operators & administrations, and the first phase entered service in December 2012. While it may not have been completely problem-free over the last 5+ years, online searches do not return any published reports of significant outages caused by damage to the cable.
However, on March 30, damage to the cable disrupted Internet connectivity to a number of connected countries, with reported problems posted to social media over the next several days. These posts indicated that the ACE submarine cable was cut near Noukachott, Mauritania, but did not provide any specific information about what severed the cable.
Of the 22 countries listed as having landing points for the ACE Submarine Cable, 10 had significant disruptions evident in Oracle’s Internet Intelligence data. The graphs below show the impact of the cable cut to Internet connectivity within the affected countries, with the countries shown grouped by the number of submarine cable connections each country has, based on information found on TeleGeography’s Submarine Cable Map.
This first figure, immediately above, includes graphs for the six affected countries (Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and the Gambia) that only have a single submarine cable connection (to ACE). While the disruption begins at the same time across all six countries, it is interesting to note that the duration and severity of impact varied widely. The most significant, and longest-lasting disruption was seen in Mauritania, with a complete outage lasting for nearly 48 hours, followed by partial restoration of connectivity. Sierra Leone also saw a significant impact as a result of the cable cut, followed by a complete outage on April 1. However, we believe that the April 1 outage may have been government-directed, related to recent national elections. The differences in duration and severity may be related to the other international Internet connections, via terrestrial cable or satellite, that the providers in these countries have in place, resulting in varying levels of reliance on the ACE cable system.