Damaged cables slow Internet traffic across Asia

Damage to two trans-Pacific undersea cables on Thursday caused Internet traffic from Asia to the United States to slow down around the region, according to the company that operates the cables.

The two cables snapped in three places about 30 kilometres off the coast of Shantou, in China’s southern Guangdong province. The breaks occurred at the SEA-ME-WE3 cable segment connecting Hong Kong and Shantou and segments of the China-U.S. cable connecting Shantou to Taiwan and Japan, said Reach Networks Ltd., the operator of the cables. Reach is a joint venture between Australia’s Telstra Corp. Ltd. and Hong Kong’s Pacific Century CyberWorks Ltd. (PCCW).

Efforts to repair the cables are currently underway, the company said.

“Two ships, one from Shanghai and another from Japan, are on the way to Shantou and they are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday,” said Shirley Woo, corporate affairs manager for Reach. “We cannot give an exact date when repairs will be completed because there are a lot of owners who own the cables, so there is still a bit of coordination work that needs to be done.”

The damage to the cables is believed to have been caused by ships dragging their anchors along the seabed in the face of Typhoon Nari, which is affecting the area, Woo said.

The greatest disruption of Internet services was felt in Australia and Hong Kong, Woo said. Hong Kong-based ISP Netvigator, which is owned by PCCW, confirmed its users had been affected by the cable breaks but declined to comment on the extent of the effect on users. International phone traffic has not been affected by the breaks as any overflow is automatically handled through alternative routings to the same carriers, or via other overseas administrations, Reach said in a statement.

Both the SEA-ME-WE3 and China-U.S. cables are owned by consortiums that include a number of telecommunication carriers and network operators. The capacity of the China-US cable is 80G bps (bits per second) and the capacity of the SEA-ME-WE3 cable is 20G bps, Reach said.

Reach, based in Hong Kong, can be reached at