How South Africa’s Internet survived cable breaks

South Africans have been hit by slow Internet speeds over the last two weeks after multiple submarine cable breaks on 16 January.

The damage to the SAT-3 and WACS undersea cables, which run along the West Coast of Africa, disrupted international connectivity between South Africa and Europe.

Co-chair at the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) Guy Halse said that these effects were contained, however.

“Although Internet speeds decreased, the SAT-3 break proved the local web is a robust and stable system that is today less reliant on international communication gateways since the creation of SA’s Internet Exchanges (INXes),” Halse said.

ISPA said the situation would have been much worse 15 years ago.

If a break occurred on the only submarine cable at the time – SAT-3 – the country would have been completely cut off from its international connection and would only have access to limited content and services.

Better redundancy and local peering

ISPA said the availability of multiple undersea cable systems improved redundancy, allowing Internet traffic to be routed via alternative connections.

Additionally, an increase in content peered via South Africa’s community-run Internet exchanges ensured that users had continuous access to many web pages and services throughout the breakage period.

“The local peering and exchange of Internet traffic within South Africa’s borders, via the INXes, did what it is designed to do and that is to ensure better local Internet traffic delivery,” Halse said.

“Enhanced resilience against outside events is the result of SA having multiple international routes and becoming less reliant on those international routes when it comes to the local exchange of traffic,” Halse stated.

Internet exchange points allow Internet businesses to interconnect networks in order for local Internet users to enjoy faster and more efficient access to online services.

Furthermore, network operators benefit from lower costs, resulting in more stable and affordable bandwidth which is crucial for the development of the Internet, ISPA said.

Now read: Great news for South Africa’s slow Internet – Cable repair ship leaves harbour

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How South Africa’s Internet survived cable breaks