Asia's capacity carriers dodge the hand of god

Robert Clark
09 Sep 2009

The hand of god powerfully struck Taiwan twice within ten days last month. Asia's subsea capacity sector took the hits in its most sensitive area and survived. Pacnet CTO Wilfred Kwan said the submarine cable outages off Taiwan in mid-August were as damaging as the Boxing Day earthquake in 2006 which plunged Asia's internet into darkness.

The combination of Typhoon Morakot on August 7 and an earthquake off Taiwan's east coast on the 17th caused ruptures in virtually every subsea cable in the bandwidth-intensive area. The outages seriously slowed mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan internet access to North American websites, but have caused no other disruptions. "It's actually on a par with the Taiwan earthquake," said Kwan.

"It's not catastrophic from the users' perspective, but in terms of the workload for carriers. "Three years ago we restored roughly less than 100-gig capacity. Now we are talking about three times the magnitude. The sheer usage [of the net] has grown that much." The 2006 quake off southern Taiwan severed eight cables in 16 places, leaving China and Southeast Asian internet users with no offshore connectivity for two days. It took more than a week to restore capacity and months to repair all the cables.

Industry execs said they had avoided the worst impact through the measures taken in the wake of the earthquake - extra redundancy through mainland China, tighter integration between different systems, and closer working relationships between carriers.

The most telling breaks were taken by cables serving north-east Asia, cutting trans-Pacific connectivity.

The RNAL/FNAL loop, owned jointly by Reliance Globalcom and Reach, was cut in several places. A Reach official said the company was using "interlink infrastructure" on APCN2, built after the 2006 quake, to restore circuits. Reliance Globalcom spokesperson Ian Mackie said the company would not comment on its stricken cables.

Both of Pacnet's regional cables, East Asia Crossing (EAC), and C2C, were cut, Kwan said. EAC appears to be broken in two places, although Kwan said it was hard to tell at this stage. C2C had been restored. The Hong Kong-based telco put two repair ships to sea, but the extent of the problem would not be clear until it reached the scene, Kwan said. The sector "was not in good shape," he said. He said it would take up to a month to repair the cables.

The trans-Pacific APCN2 cable was cut after the typhoon but was restored within a week, a carrier exec told He said almost every cable in the region had been hit with multiple breaks.

Related content