Telecom companies face tough times as Internet issues go beyond Nigeria

Telecommunication companies in Nigeria have been having a tough time resolving internet issues for the past one week. The Internet hitches have affected connectivity, pulling browsing speed, and this has forced many Nigerians to be aggrieved over the unresolved issue.

The service disruptions were said to have been caused by damage to the West African Cable System (WACS), a submarine cable network serving the Nigerian market and some other West African countries.

WACS is an ultra-high capacity fibre optic submarine cable that links Europe, West Africa, and South Africa, connecting 14 countries and over two continents. This undersea cable carries telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean and sea and transfers about 99 percent of international data on the continent. 

The affected subscribers were mainly MTN users, who had problems surfing the Internet. Over the past week, many internet users have not been enjoying the service, leading to subscribers groaning as the hitches impede online activities.

Openserve, South Africa’s largest telecommunications infrastructure provider, while highlighting the challenge, said the South Atlantic 3/West Africa (SAT-3/WACS) submarine cable, which links South Africa to Europe was damaged near Libreville in Gabon. The WACS, which links South Africa to the United Kingdom, also experienced an outage along the coast of Luanda, Angola.

This is, however, not the first time damage to undersea cables has disrupted Internet services on the continent. In 2018, after the African Coast to Europe (ACE), a submarine cable was severed, more than 10 African countries were affected, with Mauritania going offline for 48 hours. 

In the current disruption, meanwhile, consumers across some countries including Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and Ivory Coast are having issues sending emails, surfing the Internet, making international calls and browsing. The development also affected consumers and businesses, which were unable to send emails or make cross-border phone calls, including travellers hoping to book trips ahead of the travel dates. Financial institutions, mostly commercial banks, were also hit by the outage. 

It is however currently unclear when the issue will be resolved due to the location of the cables. So, the slow internet will likely continue until network providers figure out alternatives. If the situation persists into the next few weeks, subscribers of telecoms might be forced to port to another network in search of better internet access.

By Ahmed Iyanda.

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