Cable repairs finished after Taiwan quake

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2007, 12:00am

Repairs on underwater internet and phone cables severely damaged late last year have been completed, 50 days after an earthquake off Taiwan wrecked havoc with communication services.

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) announced yesterday that repair work on the six damaged submarine cables had been finished.

The earthquake in Luzon Strait on December 26 damaged telecommunications and internet cables connecting Hong Kong to the US, Canada, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

'We are pleased to note that the repair of these cable systems is complete and all our external telecommunications services, including internet access services, have been fully restored.

'Our internet service providers have recovered their external connection capacity back to the normal operational level before the earthquakes,' an Ofta spokesman said.

The disaster, which slowed internet traffic to a crawl over the holiday period at the end of the year, highlighted a need for extra back-up capacity and contingency plans within the communications and internet service industry.

Simon Twiston-Davies, chief executive of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, said: 'This was a natural event nobody was able to foresee. Obviously, we'd like to have seen more capacity faster. This is a lesson learned that back-up capacity is needed.

'It is encouraging that it is back up to full all-systems-go again.'

Ofta came under fire soon after it became clear that internet connections in Hong Kong would not resume normal service until weeks after the earthquake.

The authority was criticised for being overly optimistic in its assertion that the damaged cables could be fixed within days.

Technology sector lawmaker Sin Chung-kai defended Ofta, saying the authority had been misinformed by cable operators who themselves could only make an 'educated estimation' of the severity of the unprecedented damage.

Early repairs had also been delayed by bad weather and rough sea conditions. Also, one of the repair ships broke down en route.

Mr Sin said: 'The repairs were more complicated than expected ... At the end of the day, Ofta gave the latest available information.'

A new reporting mechanism will be put in place later this month or in March, and Ofta has set up two working groups to carry out an 'urgent' review of the existing system to assist in spreading information about service breakdowns.

The telecoms watchdog is also discussing adding additional capacity and backup systems with providers.