East Africa internet cable firm Seacom identifies fault

Rory Cellan-Jones reports in 2009 from Mombasa, where the Seacom cable came ashore

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A problem with the undersea cable that brought high-speed net access to East Africa has been identified.

The cable owners, Seacom, said the faulty section is "at one of the deepest points along its route, some 4700m below sea level".

The cable, finished in 2009, connects South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique to Europe and Asia.

Seacom said repairs could take up to two weeks, giving a provisional end date of 22 July 2010.

In a statement, it said the fault may require robotic tools "to be deployed to locate and retrieve the cable for repairs to be undertaken on board the specialised repair ship, before replacing the cable back on the ocean floor."

Restoring capacity

The firm said it had been working, since the problem was first reported on 5 July, to find alternative methods to route internet traffic, including alternative cables.

Seacom cable comes ashore The Seacom cable was completed in July 2009

In an update on 9 July, Seacom said: "The deployment of restored capacity via other cable systems has progressed very well and Seacom is pleased with the positive support received from clients and suppliers alike.

"In addition to the alternative capacity already in place, Seacom will also continue to source and activate additional capacity to meet customer requirements for the duration of the repairs."

When the cable was completed in July 2009, it promised to bring cheap internet access across the region. However, experts say that costs are beyond many people who live in the region.

So far, the fault has mostly affected home users, as many businesses in the region have back-up plans for such problems.

It is the second major outage the cable has experienced since it went live.

Outages of this kind happen periodically. A cable cut in the Mediterranean in 2008 temporarily disrupted up to 70% of internet traffic to Egypt and 60% to India.

News of the outage came as another cable - the Main One cable linking Europe with Western Africa - was switched on.

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