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By Ella Smook
South African Internet users have been battling to get their online work done since Monday, after the Seacom telecoms cable experienced a submarine failure.
And while Seacom has started emergency repair procedures to correct the problem, it could take more than a week before service is restored.
Seacom says investigations have indicated that a repeater failed on segment nine of the cable, which is off-shore to the north of Mombasa, Kenya.
A repair ship had been sent to the area of the fault to pick up the cable, which would be brought aboard so the faulty repeater could be replaced.
Seacom's undersea fibre-optic cable, which links South and East Africa to global networks through India and Europe, went live a year ago, giving a major boost to Africa's international connectivity by providing high-capacity bandwidth.
Service provider MWeb, which uses Seacom as its primary provider of international bandwidth, reported securing alternative capacity on the SAIX network from Monday afternoon to about 2pm yesterday. But hours before the Netherlands versus Uruguay match, SAIX withdrew the capacity due to concerns over its bandwidth commitments to Fifa for the World Cup.
"MWeb is in urgent discussions with a number of providers to obtain alternative bandwidth until the Seacom capacity has been fully restored," said chief executive Derek Hershaw.
But he stressed that local Internet traffic, including browsing, e-mail and Internet banking, was unaffected.
Afrihost, meanwhile, notified clients on its website that the Seacom outage was "affecting connectivity to international websites and services for our ADSL clients", and advised customers to use Afrihost proxy servers to access overseas sites.
While services such as Instant Messenger and overseas websites such as Google and Facebook were troublesome for some, local connection and speeds had not been affected, Afrihost said.
A technical support consultant with Axxess DSL said international hosting would be affected, but that local browsing should not be a problem.
He added that many service providers were routing traffic along the SAT-3 undersea cable system.
Seacom has said that the overall repair process may take as long as six to eight days. This would depend on the transit time of the ship, weather conditions and time taken to locate the cable.
Seacom's Frederic Cornet told the Cape Argus yesterday that Internet users across the continent would be affected differently by the outage, depending on the "redundancy", or alternatives, that their Internet service providers had in place to ensure continuity of service.
"People most affected seem to be those in the retail segment, who would have cheaper ADSL options," he said.