Monday, January 29, 2007

Asia's internet 'repaired'

Internet in Asia has been severely disrupted since 26 December

China, and the Far East, is now back on-line after telecommunications cables, damaged after December’s 7.1 quake, have been repaired [CCTV]. Several undersea cables, which connect the Far East to the US and the rest of the world, were damaged. It resulted in severe disruption to millions of internet users. Telephonic communication was also disrupted. In January, Bloomberg reported that there were delays in repairing the cables. Bad weather and a major fault in one of the cable laying ships was said to be the cause of the delay.

Re-routing of internet and telecommunications traffic has eased some of the disruption, but international communications have been slow or non-existent. Over the last month, a Chinese internet page accessed in the west has taken several minutes to load. On many occasions the page failed to load at all. Similar conditions have also hit Chinese internet users. This has resulted in a slowing of business affairs as well as the more mundane uses of the world wide web. On the day of the earthquake, several financial institutions ground to a halt.

China Netcom and China Telecom said today that further repairs still need to be completed but work should be completed by mid-February. According to Bloomberg, five of the seven cables are now repaired. Repairing the cables is a delicate and time-consuming operation. Divers must hook both ends of the ruptured cables from the ocean floor to 1,000 metres below the surface. After connecting the two ends, they must then test the cable before lowering it to the ocean floor. Eight repair ships were sent, and reports suggested that the cables would be fixed within two to three weeks. However, another earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale shook the same waters on Jan. 17, bringing further damage to the cables.

Many analysts have speculated that the disruption has been exacerbated by a lack of investment to the internet infrastructure. However,, in a report published in early January, says this is a myth, and that the existing cable infrastructure is only operating at 15% capacity, leaving plenty of room for growth. Whatever the truth, the disruption to the internet by December’s earthquake sends a clear signal that more needs to be done in maintaining communications which hold together the modern world.

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