This is what caused South Africa’s massive Internet outage

South Africa experienced a massive Internet outage on 21 January, with local users unable to connect to local and international websites.

Afrihost informed subscribers at the time that the WACS and Seacom undersea cable systems were down, with MWEB experiencing “major international link failures” due to the undersea cable downtime.

Seacom has explained what caused the outage which affected local users, stating that its Northern Trans-Egypt route was damaged between Cairo and Alexandri, and its Southern Trans-Egypt route was damaged on the outskirts of Cairo.

“Both events were caused by civil construction activity,” said Seacom.

The company said it took 2 hours and 40 minutes to repair the cable breaks, during which time Internet connectivity was affected.

“During the dual failure across Egypt, we were able to route Internet traffic through India. However, many operators in Africa use a basic transmission service that links directly to Europe and uses the west coast cable as a backup.

Unfortunately, WACS (West African Cable System) was also experiencing an outage, which led to international connectivity at many of these service providers failing.

TechCentral reported that the WACS outage was on a terrestrial system in the UK which connects the cable system with a data centre in London.

How SA’s Internet traffic was affected

The graph below shows the sharp decline in traffic across NAPAfrica’s Internet Exchange points in the country at around 16:00 on 21 January.

NAPAfrica is a layer 2 Internet Exchange point located within each Teraco data centre, which sees companies like Google, Telkom Internet, Afrihost, and Netflix peering there.

The drop from around 60Gbps to roughly 10Gbps is indicative of little traffic exchanging hands between networks in South Africa.

NAPAfrica Traffic Map 22 Jan 2016

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This is what caused South Africa’s massive Internet outage