Bad weather hits repairs to internet and phone cables

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 December, 2006, 12:00am


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Services now expected to take longer than a week to resume

Bad weather has delayed repairs to underwater cables damaged in this week's earthquake, and internet users will have to wait longer than the five to seven days originally forecast for services to return to normal, Hong Kong's telecommunications watchdog warned yesterday.

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) said in a statement: 'Some submarine cable maintenance ships arrived at the scene [on Thursday]. However, the weather obstructed the survey and assessment work.

'The initial survey indicated that damage to the submarine cables was substantial. It is expected a longer time than the original estimate of five to seven days may be required to repair the cables.'

The cables in the Luzon Strait - between Taiwan and the Philippines - had been reached by two of the five emergency repair ships that set off from Singapore and the Philippines following the quake in Taiwan, which led to major disruptions in telephone and internet systems throughout the region.

Taiwan's largest phone company, Chunghwa Telecom, is reported to have commissioned three more ships to assist in the repair effort.

Hong Kong Internet Society chairman Charles Mok Nai-kwong warned users to expect to see in the New Year with slower connections.

'I think we're going to see these problems continuing for at least a couple of weeks. Those cables were not built in seven days, how can they be fixed in seven days?' he said.

Meanwhile, phone company PCCW said all voice calls to Taiwan and international destinations had returned to normal.

It had also seen an improvement in internet access due to data re-routing and acquisition of alternative bandwidth, and expected 'significant improvement over the next 24 hours'.

Ofta said there had been some improvement in the internet yesterday, but most users continued to experience slow access.

China Telecom said last night maintenance work was under way and it would take at least a week to restore internet connections.

A survey by showed that more than 90 per cent of the 70,000 internet users who responded to the study said the disruption had seriously affected their daily lives and work.

A further 52.13 per cent said the disruption had caused damage to their companies. Of these, 38.82 per cent said the damage was serious.

Ofta yesterday advised the Hong Kong public not to make non-urgent calls to Taiwan and South Korea, and asked overseas callers dialling Hong Kong numbers to use mobile phones or fixed-line phones instead of calling cards.

iCable yesterday was running at 70 per cent of its normal operation and does not expect full service to resume until repairs have been carried out on the cables.