Advanced Television

South Africa hit by Internet outage

March 18, 2024

By Chris Forrester

Last week saw multiple cable breaks around Africa which badly affected broadband connectivity for much of Africa but especially for South Africa which is the most commercially important nation.

According to Microsoft, four undersea cables off the coast of Abidjan and the Cote d’Ivoire were severed and the breaks caused by “seismic activity”. These are the main internet cables which connect South Africa to Europe run along the west coast of Africa, including the West Africa Cable System (Wacs) and Google’s Equiano cable.

Microsoft named the four cables affected as Wacs, MainOne, Sat-3 and Ace. Local reports say the breaks could take weeks or even months to fix.

Vodacom, a major telco in the region, admitted that all of South Africa’s network providers were affected.

Not helping is that East Africa’s major ‘Seacom’ cable in the Red Sea was also severed, probably by a ship’s anchor. Seacom said in February that data traffic was interrupted on its cable which runs from Mombasa in Kenya to Zafarana in Egypt.

Data indicates that eight West African countries are badly affected, with Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Benin being badly hurt. Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon are also suffering disruption while Senegal and even Portugal being impacted.

Microsoft says the cable breaks have reduced total capacity supporting its Azure data centre regions in South Africa, namely South Africa North and South Africa West. Many organisations reported problems accessing Microsoft services, including Teams, last week and through the weekend.

Angola Cable said on March 15th that it has back-up and alternates available to the sector.

Microsoft said it hoped to have mitigated the worst of the breaks by now and that most links were returning to their normal levels. However, Microsoft itself and important institutions such as Nedbank in South Africa reported having to redirect broadband and internet traffic.

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