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Internet Restoration Efforts Underway After Undersea Cable Outages Impact Africa

Published March 17, 2024
2 months ago

MTN Group’s Bayobab network services provider has taken swift action in response to a significant Internet disruption caused by simultaneous outages of key undersea communications cables serving the African continent. The affected cables include the West Africa Cable System (WACS), the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE), MainOne, and SAT–3, which all experienced disruptions around 12:30 on Thursday.

As a result of the outage, numerous network services have suffered, including Microsoft’s cloud region in South Africa and Vodacom’s data network. The service interruption led to considerable operational challenges for businesses and users who rely heavily on these digital services. Notably, payment provider Yoco reported service disruptions due to its dependence on Microsoft Azure.

In the wake of the incident, MTN Group’s Bayobab is coordinating closely with its partners to arrange expedited repair of the damaged cables. A cable ship has been mobilized by the WACS and ACE consortiums to address the repairs while the root cause of the disruption remains under investigation.

In the interim, Bayobab has implemented a rerouting strategy to mitigate the loss of connectivity by leveraging alternative network routes and cooperating with industry partners. The goal is to ensure service continuity for its customers. Alongside these immediate remedies, there are plans to bolster Africa's digital infrastructure resilience. This includes proposals to increase interconnections between WACS and Google’s Equiano cable and to establish a direct link between WACS on the west coast and EASSy on the east coast.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's technical teams have been working on rerouting traffic and expanding South African server capacities to restore full functionality to its cloud services. While efforts were anticipated to be completed by 16:00 on Friday, unforeseen technical issues regarding capacity activation led to delays. However, Microsoft has issued a statement expecting completion by 20:00 on the same day.

The situation is exacerbated by additional cable cuts in the Red Sea on Seacom, EIG, and AAE–1, which has been attributed to an anchor drag by The Rubymar ship following a Houthi attack. These incidents have collectively reduced the total network capacity across many African regions.

As networks operators, such as Vodacom, and service providers like Microsoft work to reinstate services, the full impact of the outage on businesses and individuals continues to be assessed. The extensive implications underscore the critical need for robust and reliable digital infrastructure in Africa.

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