Undersea cable failure causes internet outage in several African countries

Abuja, Nigeria –

More than a dozen countries in Africa experienced severe internet outages on Thursday as multiple undersea telecom cables reported faults, network operators and Internet Watch said.

MTN Group, one of Africa’s largest network providers, said the ongoing disruption was caused by the failure of several major submarine cables. “Our operations are actively working to reroute traffic through alternative network paths,” the South African company said in a statement.

In recent years, network outages due to damaged cables have frequently occurred in Africa. However, “today’s outage is indicative of a larger problem (and) is one of the most severe,” said Isik Mater, research director at NetBlocks, an organization that documents Internet outages around the world.

NetBlocks said data transmissions and measurements showed severe disruptions to international shipping “possibly at or near undersea network cable landing sites.”

The reason for the failure is unclear.

There are fears of disruption to essential services in worst-hit countries such as Ivory Coast, where disruptions have been severe. Africa leads the world in mobile device web traffic, and many businesses on the continent rely on the internet to deliver services to customers.

Observers said system cables such as the West African Cable System (WACS), African Coast to Europe (ACE), SAT-3 and MainOne were affected by Thursday’s outage.

Internet analytics company Cloudflare reports that the pattern of outages has severely impacted at least 10 West African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso.

South African mobile operator Vodacom also reported “intermittent connectivity issues due to multiple submarine cable failures”. Namibia and Lesotho are also affected.

NetBlocks’ Mater said the impact of such cable failures would be exacerbated as networks try to bypass damaged lines, potentially reducing the capacity available to other countries.

“The initial outage may be physical, but subsequent issues may be technical,” Matt said.

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