Good news for slow Internet in South Africa

A break in the West Africa Cable System (Wacs) off the coast of Congo has been repaired several days ahead of initial estimates, MyBroadband has learned.

A suspected rockfall in the Congo Canyon on 6 August caused separate breaks on Wacs, Telkom’s South Atlantic 3 (Sat–3), and the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cables.

The cable laying ship Léon Thévenin was immediately mobilised for deep-water repair, but it had just arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, on another job.

Initially, the earliest estimated time to repair the fault was Friday, 8 September, with the caution that poor weather conditions could delay this timeframe.

The Léon Thévenin left Mombasa on 12 August and arrived back in Cape Town on 21 August.

Fortunately, Cape Town’s weather continued to hold, and the cable layer could depart for the location of the cable break, 3,600km up Africa’s west coast, on 24 August.

It arrived at the site of the break on 30 August and began effecting repairs.

Confirmation that the cable had been repaired came in late on Tuesday, 5 September.

The cable layer has switched to repairing the ACE cable, which it expects to complete by 13 September before starting repairs on SAT-3.

The breaks on Wacs and Sat–3 wreaked havoc on broadband speeds and stability in South Africa.

However, what has been curious about this Wacs break (the last major incident was in 2020) is that it is no longer the highest capacity link connecting South Africa to Europe.

Last year, the massive Google-owned Equiano and Facebook-backed 2Africa cables made their first landings in South Africa.

Although 2Africa is not yet live, Equiano is. Several other high-capacity international subsea cables are also available from South Africa, including Seacom, EASSy, and Peace.

Services and service providers that had bought protected circuits with sufficient redundant capacity on alternative cables were unaffected by the breaks.

However, several major content owners and distributors did not appear to have enough redundant capacity, including Facebook and Akamai.

Akamai is a global content delivery service provider used by Disney+ and TikTok.

During peak times, Facebook and Akamai were disabling routing to their local servers, forcing users in South Africa to fetch content from servers in Europe, Kenya, and Malaysia.

This effectively shifted the problem onto local Internet service providers, who were left scrambling to make a plan to increase their international capacity.

Akamai did not acknowledge the issue until after MyBroadband first reported on it.

It has not responded to our requests for comment and last updated its network status page on 24 August 2023.

“We are continuing to work with our third-party service provider to investigate this issue. We will provide another update as we progress,” it stated.

Thanks to Jade for the tip. Article updated to include ACE break.

Now read: How Starlink could officially launch in South Africa

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Good news for slow Internet in South Africa