April 07, 2020

Submarine Cable WACS restored

Many South Africans must be relieved that the break in the WACS submarine cable has been restored and slow internet is something of the past, for now. While many ISPs were able to reroute traffic to and from South Africa on other cable systems, many internet users experienced latency.


There is no news coming from Telkom about SAT3, which apparently is down for maintenance.

It is concerning that the WACS went down for a second time this year. The first break was off the coast of the Congo on 17 January this year. The departure of the cable repair ship, which moored in Cape harbour, was delayed due to poor weather conditions and only arrived at the scene on 28 January. The WACS repair was further hampered by poor sea conditions and was only restored on 8 February 2020.

The second break happened on 27 March and was restored on 4 April.  The question arises why there were two breaks in two different places in such a short time.  Given that it can take a cable restoration ship a week or longer to get to a break, should the WACS consortium not launch an investigation to determine if there are any other vulnerable points along the route and take preventative action?

Many ISPs in South Africa are heavily reliant on the WACs cable system, as it is a low-cost, high-speed system that connects Africa to Europe on a low-latency routing.

There are several other sub-marine cable systems connecting South Africa, but connecting to Europe and the USA, going halfway around the world, is increasing the latency. That is the main reason why WACS and SAT-3 play such an important part. During the last two WACS breaks Seacom, which is a private cable company, came to the party to provide the best possible alternative routing to ISP and to companies that do not have redundancy built into their networks. Seacom’s cooperation is commendable for keeping many South Africans connected to the world.