WACS outage – We tested Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom, and Rain

South African Internet users have experienced slow Internet speeds to international sites following breaks on the WACS and SAT3 submarine cable systems.

Openserve said the “unusual and simultaneous dual cable breaks” on the WACS and SAT3/WASC systems occurred last week in the vicinity of Angola and Gabon respectively.

Adverse weather conditions in Cape Town have also prevented the cable repair ship from departing to fix the breaks.

According to the South African National Research and Education Network (SANREN), the cable vessel is still alongside the cable depot quay in Cape Town.

“We have not received any indication as yet as to when it will be departing up the west coast,” SANREN said on Tuesday morning.

Impact on mobile networks

The impact of the WACS and SAT3 cable breaks on Internet service providers depends on their capacity on other cable systems like EASSy and Seacom.

Vodacom told MyBroadband that while it uses the WACS cable system, its traffic is not affected by the present outages.

This is thanks to the company’s resilient international network with sufficient access to all five cable systems landing in South Africa – WACS, EASSy, SAT3, SAFE, and Seacom.

“The present WACS and SAT3 outages are not affecting Vodacom’s service to its customers, except for relatively small latency changes due to different routes followed,” Vodacom said.

Rain CEO Willem Roos told MyBroadband they use WACS as one of their sources of international connectivity.

“We do, however, have additional routes via the East African coast and South America. This redundancy enabled us to minimise the impact on users,” he said.

Roos said they also make extensive use of local peering and caching, which minimises international traffic – which further mitigated the impact.

MTN told MyBroadband that it has already begun to restore traffic through other channels and will continue to find alternative routes of connectivity until the situation is resolved.

“MTN will not rest until we have restored all services for our customers and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience,” the company said.

Cell C told MyBroadband its network design with local peering and redundancy means it was able to mitigate the impact of the undersea cable break.

Telkom did not respond to questions about the impact on its users by the time of publication.

Mobile operators tested

The WACS and SAT3 cable breaks only affect international traffic, and to test the impact on mobile operators MyBroadband tested both local and international speeds.

The difference in local and international download and upload speed gives an indication of the impact of the cable breaks on an operator.

The results revealed that MTN and Vodacom’s performance is almost unaffected by the cable break, and they continue to provide subscribers with international speeds of over 80% of local speeds.

Rain and Cell C’s performance took a knock, but they still provide subscribers with international speeds between 40% and 60% of local speeds.

Telkom is the worst hit by far. The tests show that it provides subscribers with international speeds of only 5% of local speeds.

Not a single international speed test performed on Telkom’s mobile network exceeded 1Mbps – which illustrates the impact on its network.

The table below provides an overview of the impact of the WACS and SAT3 cable breaks on the various mobile networks.

MTN (85%)
Location Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps) Latency
South Africa 86.29 27.96 23.67
International 83.65 20.19 213.33
Performance 96.94% 72.20%
Vodacom (81%)
Location Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps) Latency
South Africa 60.51 39.89 32.00
International 59.17 25.27 209.67
Performance 97.78% 63.36%
Rain (59%)
Location Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps) Latency
South Africa 58.41 29.66 20.00
International 36.94 15.94 204.67
Performance 63.24% 53.75%
Cell C (45%)
Location Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps) Latency
South Africa 46.89 20.52 23.33
International 19.28 10.15 240.00
Performance 41.12% 49.44%
Telkom (5%)
Location Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps) Latency
South Africa 32.36 5.77 14.67
International 0.49 0.53 286.67
Performance 1.50% 9.18%

Now read: Bad news for South Africa’s slow Internet

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WACS outage – We tested Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom, and Rain