Mobile Week with GSM

August 2, 2009

SAT3 cable cut: 70% internet Capacity threatened, MTN, Suburban count losses

By Prince Osuagwu
LAST week Monday,Nigeria’s SAT3 submarine cable system, had a default on one of its landing cables linking the Benin Republic and up till now, about 70 percent of Nigeria’s internet capacity is said to be still hanging on the balance .


The cut caused on outage on the landing cable that connects the terrestrial fibre optic networks to the submarine fibre optic cable along the Republic of Benin axis is expected to last at least ten clear days from Monday last week, before it could be rectified.

Already the outage has also disrupted the services of a lot of networks and service providers who depend on the SAT3 to service their customers.

Although the disruption is described as a minor one even as there has always been occasional cuts on the SAT3 submarine cable, networks like Suburban Telecom, one of Nigeria’s primary supplier of Internet Capacity and MTN Nigeria, another telecommunications operator has been counting their losses as the disruptions has affected their services greatly.

Suburban West Africa, told Vanguard that as a premier supplier of internet backbone services in the region it had deployed a redundant terrestrial fibre optic network in the Republic of Benin, in order to connect into Benin Telecom, a member of the SAT3 submarine cable consortium but with the disruption occurring in the terrestrial fibre optic, its connection has been disturbed. According to the Chief Technical Officer of Suburban West Africa, Mr. Anil Verma, “as premier supplier of internet backbone services in the region we had been on the forefront of increasing the internet capacity available in Nigeria through a partnership agreement with Benin Telecom, a member of the SAT3 submarine cable consortium. This partnership resulted in Suburban deploying a redundant terrestrial fibre optic network into the Republic of Benin, in order to connect into the cable system there. However, this current outage was experienced on the landing cable that connects the terrestrial fibre optic networks to the submarine fibre optic cable.

“But this is only a temporary setback. Once the cable is restored, we will continue with our efforts of making available more internet bandwidth in Nigeria at a reasonable cost, as we have been doing over the last few years”.

MTN Nigeria, also announced that the company is experiencing challenges with access to international bandwidth, leading to service disruption to some of its international and data / internet based services as a result of damage to one of the landing cables of the SAT3 submarine cable system

Corporate Services Executive of MTN, Mr Wale Goodluck said “we are experiencing some challenges with access to bandwidth which carries a very large portion of our international voice and data traffic out of the country. While the cause of the problem is still being investigated by our service provider, the immediate consequence is that our international traffic will be affected. Specifically, our subscribers who make international calls may experience difficulties as we anticipate congestion on the international route”.
He also said that subscribers who use MTN Fastlink data cards or mobile internet via 3.5G or GPRS, Blackberry users and Enterprise customers, who use the fixed broadband internet, will also be affected .

Meanwhile Chief Executive Officer of Suburban West Africa, Mr. Bruce Ayonote said that “in the eight years the SAT3 service has been available, this is the first time there has been an outage on the Benin landing cable. There have been outages on the actual SAT3 submarine cable itself, but not the Benin landing cable. The SAT3 cable is built with redundancy, which is why there has been minimal downtime in other outages, but with this outage being on an isolated landing cable, we will have to wait for the SAT3 consortium to send one of their cable maintenance ships to Benin to fix the problem. This is expected to take approximately 10 days.”

Ayonote’s position was corroborated by the Nigerian Communications Commission which though sympathised with operators affected but confirmed that no damage was done to the Nitel Sat –– 3 Cable as a result of the incident.
The commission also reassured operators concerned that with information it gathered, effective repairs were being put in place.

Linkserve’s C-Band Service as antidoteeanwhile, industry experts have said that since the incident was a normal occurrence and not peculiar to the SAT3 alone, it behooves on operators to deploy a reliable alternative and back up strategies to stay afloat in times like that.

For instance, another Nigeria’s pioneering and premiere Internet Service Provider, Linkserve, said that immediately the incident occured, it migrated affected customers on its platform to a veritable platform that kept them on without knowledge that something was wrong somewhere.

Chairman of the company, Mr Chima Onyekwere, said that the problem on SAT3 had proved that investment the company made recently in C-band HUB, located in Intelsat’s teleport facility in Fuchsstadt, Germany, was a worthwhile investment.

According to him, “as Nigeria was plunged into a nationwide network connection crisis with the temporary loss of service from the SAT3 submarine cable which suffered some damage, clients on our C-Band were not even aware of the disruption because we immediately switched clients on our KU-Band to our C-Band while our engineers began the process of activating our back-up platform. Our clients depend on us to provide the network capacity their businesses need to provide excellent services to their customers. We have the huge responsibility of ensuring that we meet all their connection needs whenever and wherever they arise. You can only imagine the agony businesses face when network service providers do not have the competence needed to deliver quality, professional service in such a sensitive industry”.

Onyekwere also said that service on the KU-Band has been restored on the company’s back-up platform pending the complete restoration of services of the SAT3 cable, adding that “right now, we have restored full internet services to all our clients and extend our sympathies to everyone affected by the disruption”.

Linkserve’s C-Band HUB is based on Viasat Incorporation’s DVB S2 ACM for service on the Intelsat 105 beam which covers the entire African continent. The HUB according to Onyekwere, operates solutions and services based on the new ITU standard that was approved in 2003 and is also fully redundant.
It is secured with Cisco’s ASA technology in order to better provide high quality services including high speed internet and data connectivity as well as Virtual Network Operator (VNO) which broader based clients can employ as an ideal network solution for service operations in Africa.