SEACOM maintenance extended until 30 April – South African Internet slow

MTN Business (in their NOC notices) have confirmed what SEACOM had alluded to – the maintenance windows (and hence the high latency and traffic redirection via the SAT3 cable rather than the SEACOM link) has been extended until 30 April 2010. SEACOM in their notice on 26 April:

The ongoing repair work is affecting several cable systems and has impacted negatively on the overall Internet connectivity in many regions across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, which rely to some extent on the availability of the SEA-ME-WE 4 cable for global connectivity.SEA-ME-WE 4, which stretches from South East Asia to Europe via the Indian Sub-Continent and Middle East, was initially scheduled to undergo repairs to fix the affected fibre pair in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday 17 April 2010 but this was subsequently rescheduled to Saturday 24 April 2010. However, due to ongoing maintenance activity on another cable network servicing Africa and poor weather in the Mediterranean Sea, the actual work only began on Sunday 25 April 2010 resulting in the SEACOM service experiencing interruptions from around mid-day on Sunday.

Local providers are providing proxy redirections and fallbacks in order to handle the high latency and very bad browsing experiences… As Telkom traffic seems more SAT3-link dependent anyway, using your Telkom-based DSL account will provide (marginally) better browing experience than IS-based links (Afrihost etc) (though those are now redirecting via SAT3, too) — however, due to the added load, overall performance may be slower.

Let’s wait with baited breath… AmazonAWS-based services and streaming services (YouTube etc) should be worst affected…

There’s a good explanation of the cause of the SAT3 solution / saturation over at UCT’s ICTS, who are a client of TENET (the Tertiary Education and Research Network):

Currently a large number of SAT3 circuits are routed via the SAFE system due to power feeder problems in Abidjan, these circuits are then routed onto a cable system known as SMW3 in Penang where they then flow on to Europe. SMW3 however follows the same path as SMW4, and there is a fairly high probability that SMW3 could be affected by the work on SMW4 at the same time. Should this happen, the Internet in South Africa will effectively be offline almost entirely. It should also be noted that the ISPs that DO have capacity on both SAT-3 and SEACOM have far more capacity on SEACOM than on SAT-3 and hence will be running completely saturated (One major ISP has informed me they will be running into a multi-gigabit traffic deficit because of this), hence purchasing capacity on SAT3 at short notice becomes even more problematic.

Expect the internet connection in South Africa, and Africa as a whole, to be slow, and jerky in places, with high latencies… India’s affected, too — the SEAME-WE4 links the SEACOM cable to Europe.

More info from Rhodes University:

Since early this morning our traffic has been routed Eastwards, through Mumbai (India) and onwards to Asia. (We normally route North-West, up the coast and straight into to Europe). Taking the long way around the world significantly increases the distance between us and Europe and the Americas and greatly increases the latency we experience. This will add to the perception of “slowness”, particularly for sites hosted in Europe.