Subsea cable breaks 'as bad as 2006 quake'

Robert Clark
20 Aug 2009

The submarine cable outages off Taiwan this week have been as damaging as the Boxing Day earthquake in 2006, according to Pacnet CTO Wilfred Kwan.

The combination of Typhoon Morakot and an earthquake off Taiwan’s east coast has caused ruptures in virtually every subsea cable in the vicinity, industry sources say.

The outages slowed mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan internet access late last week and early this week, but have caused no serious 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 cut 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.

Both of Pacnet’s regional cables, East Asia Crossing (EAC), and C2C, had been cut. EAC appears to be broken in two places, although Kwan said it was hard to tell at this stage. C2C had been restored.

Pacnet carrier had put two cable repair ships to sea, but the extent of the problem would not be clear until it reached the scene, Kwan said. The whole cable sector is "not in good shape."

He said it would take up to a month to repair the cables.

The RNAL/FNAL loop, owned jointly by FLAG and Reach, is also out of action. Like EAC, it is runs close to Taiwan and services north-east Asia. Both companies declined to comment on the status of the cables.

The trans-Pacific APCN2 cable was cut last week but was now restored, a carrier exec told He said almost every cable in the region had been hit with multiple breaks over the past ten days.

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