Cables hit by typhoons but Internet links here intact

Singtel administers the 39,000km SEA-ME-WE3 undersea cable line, which is used to carry data between the three regions it passes through.
Singtel administers the 39,000km SEA-ME-WE3 undersea cable line, which is used to carry data between the three regions it passes through. PHOTO: REUTERS

Singtel, StarHub reroute traffic to other undersea cables to ensure connectivity

Internet users in Singapore managed to escape severe slowdowns and service disruption despite damage to undersea cables in the wake of typhoons that ravaged Hong Kong and Macau last week.

Although cables belonging to Internet service providers (ISPs) Singtel and StarHub were damaged during the storms, redundancies put in place after previous incidents meant connectivity could be rerouted through other cables.

Typhoons Hato and Pakhar disrupted connections for countries such as Australia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The storms damaged at least four undersea cables across the Pacific Ocean: the ASE (Asia Submarine-cable Express), Asia-American Gateway, TGA-Intra Asia, and SEA-ME-WE3 (South-East Asia- Middle East-Western Europe 3).

Singtel administers the 39,000km SEA-ME-WE3 undersea cable line, which is used to carry data between the three regions it passes through. Damage to that line occurred somewhere off the coast of Jakarta, said a Singtel spokesman.

According to Australian ISP Vocus, that damage resulted in a cable break that brought down connectivity to the line linking Perth and Singapore.

A tentative repair completion date has been set for Oct 13.

The cut hit users in Australia the hardest, with at least two ISPs there warning users of slower connection speeds over the next six weeks.

However, Singapore users are still able to connect to Australian websites or Internet services with minimal slowdown as Singtel has sufficient means to reroute traffic through other cables to ensure connectivity.

The SEA-ME-WE3 line has suffered several major cuts in the past, including one in 2006, due to an earthquake in Taiwan, and disruptions in 2013 and 2015.

Similar redundancies apply for StarHub, which is one of the four owners of the ASE cable. The 7,200km line is jointly owned with Telekom Malaysia, Japan's Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation and the Philippines' PLDT.

A StarHub spokesman said consumers here remain unaffected by the cut in the ASE cable. "We have successfully rerouted data traffic through our other undersea cable systems, in which we invest to ensure diversity and redundancy in international connectivity."

Only Singtel and StarHub own such infrastructure for Internet connectivity.

Other ISPs such as M1, MyRepublic and ViewQwest purchase bandwidth from other Internet companies and were not directly affected by the cable damage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'Cables hit by typhoons but Internet links here intact'. Print Edition | Subscribe