On Top COVID-19 Lockdown, Africans Now Face Internet Issues As Subsea Cables Break Again

By  |  March 30, 2020

What’s worse than a nationwide lockdown? A lockdown with extremely poor or no internet. 

And that’s the reality for many people in South Africa at the moment who now have to deal with two “downs” — a COVID-19-enforced nationwide lockdown and an internet slowdown ontop of that.

According to reports, South Africa is suffering internet outrages and frustrating slowdowns because the country’s internet is broken again. Literally. It is understood that two of the undersea cables that connect South Africa to the global network are again suffering outages, dragging down mobile and landline data speeds nationwide.

As per a story on Quartz Africa, the same cable breakage that happened in January this year has repeated itself.  The West Africa Cable System (WACS), a submarine fiber-optic line that carries data between the United Kingdom and the west coast of Africa, tore on Saturday about 24 miles from Britain in roughly the same spot that the cable broke in January.

The latest break is at least the third fault to plague the WACS so far this year. The damage is requiring providers to reroute traffic to cables that drape the continent’s east coast.  It is not expected to be repaired until Saturday, April 4.

“We are aware of increased latency, slow speeds due to damaged undersea cables, affecting most ISP’s,” Axxess, an ISP that serves cities across South Africa, told customers on Saturday.

Besides South Africa where the disruption of a lockdown has now been compounded with a slowdown in internet speeds, all countries that use the WACS are likely to be affected by the cable damage to some degree. And this would include most countries on the west coast of Africa.

On January 17, we reported that internet users across more than a dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast were suffering poor internet service because two undersea cables connected to the continent’s western coast had been damaged.

The affected cables were the same WACS cable and another SAT3/WASC cable which are both in the Atlantic Ocean and connect South Africa and many other African countries to Europe.

Besides those, two other subsea cables that serve the continent also failed in early March, though according to TENET, the WACS absorbed the traffic.

As more African countries are expected to go into full lockdown in the coming weeks, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to peak in Africa in the next two to three weeks, internet problems have become one more thing to worry about.

Featured Image Courtesy: AfricaNews

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