Japan quake hits cables, operators

Melissa Chua
14 Mar 2011

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan Friday has left damaged submarine cables and a telecommunications crisis in its wake.

The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch reported a China Unicom (Hong Kong) spokesperson saying ‘two or three’ cables had been damaged but traffic had been re-routed to undamaged portions so disruption was minimized.

A spokesperson from Chunghwa Telecom also told of damage to the Asia Pacific Cable Network 2 (APCN2), near Kita, on Japan’s eastern coast.

The China Postreported Chunghwa Telecom saying the damage on the APCN2 had resulted in disruption to its Internet services. Traffic diversion had also been implemented.

Japan is a major hub for trans-Pacific and Intra-Asia cable networks, with more than 20 submarine cable systems landing in the country.

The APCN2 is a 19,000 km long cable network owned by 14 operators with landing points in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan.

The digital disruption caused in this instance, however, appears minor compared to 2007, when a 7.1 earthquake struck off Taiwan’s southern coast. The Taiwan quake damaged 7 out of 8 fiber-optic cables and severely crippled Internet connectivity in Asia.

While Internet access in and out of Japan remained relatively unaffected, Japan’s top three wireless carriers reported service disruptions across many parts of the country, due in part to capacity overload and damage caused to base stations.

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