Double Up the Double Trouble: Undersea Cable Break Was Worse Than Initially Let On

Four undersea cable breaks, not just two as reported, disrupted internet in Africa after snapping off Congo's coast.By William Brederode, News24
September 11, 2023

Four subsea cables that are crucial for providing internet services to Africa snapped off the coast of the Congo on 6 August, not just two cables as has been widely reported.

Last month, it was reported that the West Africa Cable System (WACS) and the South Atlantic 3 (SAT-3) cables snapped due to a rockfall in the Congo Canyon, causing internet issues in South Africa.

But Vodacom and Bayobab, the infrastructure unit of MTN that was formerly MTN GlobalConnect, confirmed to News24 that the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) subsea cable also snapped at around the same time and was being repaired.

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said that gravity-driven slope displacements “resulted in breaking four submarine cable systems on or about 6 Aug 2023 – WACS, ACE, SAT-3 and an Angolan domestic festoon system”.

Bayobab told News24 on Friday: “The consortium has been advised that the repair vessel Léon Thévenin is currently stationed at the ACE repair cable grounds, and southern break repair work is actively under way. Their dedicated teams are working diligently to ensure the swift and efficient restoration of the ACE cable system.

“We understand the critical importance of these undersea cable systems for international data transmission and connectivity across multiple regions.”

Bayobab is one of 20 companies that invested in the ACE cable. News24 asked why there was no public statement regarding the ACE cable break until now, but this was not addressed.

The ACE consortium also did not respond to the question either.

Hundreds of thousands of kilometres of thin fibre-optic cables run under the sea, and are crucial to the functioning of the internet. The cables enable the rapid transfer of information across long distances.

The WACS, SAT-3 and ACE cables are among those on the west coast of the continent which connect South Africa to the rest of the world.

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