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Africa still reeling from undersea cable disruption

Repairs expected to take three more weeks

The Eastern and Southern African regions are still grappling with slow and intermittent Internet communications after a ship sliced three major undersea broadband cables in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

The Europe India Gateway (EIG), the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSY) and the East African Marine System (Teams) cables were all sliced last month by a ship dropping anchor in the port of Mombasa and the Red Sea.

The Teams cable carries the bulk of Kenya's Internet traffic, which has now been switched to the Seacom cable. The cut in the three cables resulted in a total block or intermittent service in countries including Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Although the EASSY cable is still functioning because of its "collapse loop network configuration," which allows for internal re-routing of traffic when a break occurs, customers in these countries are still experiencing slow connections and sometimes a complete network outage for hours.

Reports are now emerging that it will take close to three weeks to repair the cables and to bring Internet connectivity back to normal.

Mike Last, marketing and international business development manager at West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC), said a cable ship has already been secured to undertake the repair. WIOCC is a shareholder in the EASSY cable, with almost 30 percent stake in the network.

"It will shortly be sailing from the Middle East to the fault site in the Red Sea to make the repair," said Last in an e-mail exchange.

"The actual repair date will depend on a variety of factors, including Sea and weather conditions in the region," he said.

A cargo ship is said to have dragged its anchor over a distance of 150 kilometers in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, cutting all the three cables.

Repairs on the three cables are expected to be completed almost at the same time, in about three weeks. But as ships in the Red Sea are subject to attacks by Somali pirates, Last said appropriate precautions are being put in place to protect the repair vessel.

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