Internet Services in East Africa Disrupted by Undersea Cable Cut

by Mmeeme Leticia Luweze
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On May 12, 2024 internet services in East Africa experienced significant degradation, affecting over 80 million users. Countries including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Sudan reported slow or intermittent internet connectivity as many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) faced difficulties.

Cloudflare Radar which monitors internet connectivity reported that Tanzania was among the worst-affected countries, with traffic falling to 30% of expected levels. The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania described the event as an “internet blackout affecting major network channels.”

Cloudflare Radar saw traffic levels across a number of the impacted countries drop. The magnitude of impact varied by country, with traffic initially dropping by 10-25% in Kenya, Uganda, Madagascar, and Mozambique, while traffic in Rwanda, Malawi, and Tanzania dropped by one-third or more as compared to the previous week.

In Kenya and Uganda, the overall impact appeared to be low, with traffic generally remaining just below expected levels in the day and a half following the cable faults. In other countries, the overnight trough of the daily traffic patterns remained consistent with the previous week’s traffic levels, but otherwise, traffic remains significantly lower than expected.

In Kenya, the impact may have been nominal due to steps taken by providers like Safaricom and Airtel Kenya. In a May 12 social media post, Safaricom noted “…We have since activated redundancy measures to minimize service interruption and keep you connected as we await the full restoration of the cable.”

In a subsequent social media post on May 13, Safaricom noted “Thanks to our redundancy plans and capacity investment across multiple undersea cables our services continue to be available, however, some customers may experience slow connectivity and speeds.”

The disruption also impacted Google Cache services, which help provide localized search results. Additionally, connectivity challenges were reported in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Ben Roberts, an industry expert from the pan-Africa company Liquid Intelligent Technologies in a media interview with BBC, explained that the patchy service resulted from faults in the undersea cables connecting the region to the rest of the world through South Africa.

He added that he had confirmed that one cable that runs alongside the coast of East Africa, known as Eassy, had been cut earlier on Sunday some 45km (28 miles) north of the South African port city of Durban.

These cables connect millions of users to global internet traffic. The exact cause of the cut was not immediately established, but providers are working to restore services.  Efforts are ongoing to repair the cables and restore full internet service to the region.

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