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East African Internet connectivity again impacted by submarine cable cuts


4 min read
Undersea cable failures cause Internet disruptions for multiple African countries

On Sunday, May 12, issues with the ESSAy and Seacom submarine cables again disrupted connectivity to East Africa, impacting a number of countries previously affected by a set of cable cuts that occurred nearly three months earlier.

On February 24, three submarine cables that run through the Red Sea were damaged: the Seacom/Tata cable, the Asia Africa Europe-1 (AAE-1), and the Europe India Gateway (EIG). It is believed that the cables were cut by the anchor of the Rubymar, a cargo ship that was damaged by a ballistic missile on February 18. These cable cuts reportedly impacted countries in East Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Mozambique. As of this writing (May 13), these cables remain unrepaired.

Already suffering from reduced capacity due to the February cable cuts, these countries were impacted by a second set of cable cuts that occurred on Sunday, May 12. According to a social media post from Ben Roberts, Group CTIO at Liquid Intelligent Technologies in Kenya, faults on the EASSy and Seacom cables again disrupted connectivity to East Africa, as he noted “All sub sea capacity between East Africa and South Africa is down.” A BBC article citing Roberts stated that the EASSy cable had been cut approximately 45km (28 miles) north of the South African port city of Durban. A subsequent press release issued by the Communications Authority of Kenya stated that the cut had occurred at the Mtunzini teleport station (in South Africa). As seen in the map below, both the EASSy and Seacom cables land in Mtunzini.

Map of African undersea cables, April 2024.‌ ‌Source:

Impacts to country-level Internet traffic

Cloudflare Radar saw traffic levels across a number of the impacted countries drop just before 11:00 local time (08:00 UTC).  As seen in the graphs below, 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 the other countries, the overnight trough of the diurnal traffic patterns remained consistent with the previous week’s traffic levels, but otherwise traffic remains significantly lower than expected.

The importance of redundancy

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 minimise 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 notedThanks 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.” Similarly, a social media post from Airtel Kenya notedFollowing yesterday's undersea fiber cut that has impacted internet connectivity, we would like to update you that we have taken measures to improve your browsing experience through additional capacity enhancement.

Similarly, the previously referenced press release from the Communications Authority of Kenya talked about actions being taken, stating “Meanwhile, the Authority has directed service providers to take proactive steps to secure alternative routes for their traffic and is monitoring the situation closely to ensure that incoming and outbound internet connectivity is available. The East Africa Marine System (TEAMS) cable, which has not been affected by the cut, is currently being utilised for local traffic flow while redundancy on the South Africa route has been activated to minimise the impact.

What’s next?

Once the necessary permits are secured and the cable faults are located, repairs can often be completed in several days. However, because cable repair ships are something of a scarce resource, there is often a delay to both engage a vessel and for it to travel to the area where the cable damage occurred, whether from its baseport or the location of a previous repair. However, in this case that delay may be comparatively short, as submarine cable industry observer @philBE2 predictsExpecting the usual suspect, CS Leon Thevenin, now moored in Cape Town, to be swiftly mobilized for an expeditious repair mission…

The Cloudflare Radar team will continue to monitor traffic recovery and the status of Internet connectivity in the impacted countries. We will share our observations on the Cloudflare Radar Outage Center, via social media, and in posts on Follow us on social media at @CloudflareRadar (X), (Mastodon), and (Bluesky), or contact us via email.

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David Belson|@dbelson

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