Cable operators battle a range of threats at sea

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2006, 12:00am

Earthquakes are just one of the threats cable operators face when protecting submarine cable systems which allow Web surfers to enjoy smooth traffic on the information highway.

'Natural disasters are just one of the problems we face. There are many other threats we have to battle against to make sure our system is in good condition,' Asia Netcom president and chief technology officer Wilfred Kwan Tai-lai said.

Dynamite fishing, fishing nets and anchors all caused damage to underwater cables, the fibre-optics communications expert said. The company owns and operates a cable system in waters south of Taiwan, and two sets of submarine cables were disrupted by the Boxing Day earthquake. Service was restored at about 11pm on Tuesday and internet users on the cable service are no longer affected.

'We diverted all internet traffic to other routes hours after the earthquake, and services to our clients are now restored to normal. The company's maintenance contractor deployed a repair ship to the scene on December 27 to fix the damaged cables,' Mr Kwan said.

'It generally takes a week to 10 days to finish the repairs. But it is hard to say this time. When they arrive at the scene, the workers will have to communicate with other repairmen, because many workers will go to the areas to do repair work for other damaged cables.'

He said the ships could not be sent earlier as they still had to check if permits were needed.

The company is working closely with partner carriers to restore as much of their services as possible by taking their traffic onto its network.

'We have just upgraded our system so that we enjoy more capacity than we used to have. It gives us more room to deal with the crisis brought by the earthquake,' Mr Kwan said.