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26 February, at 07 : 13 AM Print
Between February 17-20, clients subscribed on the MTN Rwanda internet found themselves unable to load pages, later alone send or post anything. The slow connection caused widespread dissatisfaction as seen on social networking platforms.
The complaints also came following disturbances on the phone network. Coincidentally, the Prime Minister, Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, visited the telecom giant at its offices in Nyarutarama where he urged them to put service first before profit.
MTN Rwanda immediately announced on its Twitter page that the disruptions had been caused by two factors: ongoing upgrade of its 3G network and breakdown of the East African Submarine System (EASsy).
Our focus here is the troubles on the EASsy cable. What happened on the undersea system that affected MTN clients here in Rwanda? What is being done to solve the situation? The cable is still undergoing repairs, but the MTN internet has returned to normal. What has MTN done to restore the services?
What happened is that, on Friday February 17, a signal reached the EASsy management committee showing a problem on the 10,000km submarine fibre-optic cable linking eastern and southern Africa to the rest of the world. Tests showed the hitch or “cut” as has been reported in some media was between Djibouti and Port Sudan.
For EASsy to connect to the global systems, it links through the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 3 (SMW3) cable, which also links those regions and is the longest in the world. It is operated in India and managed by WIOCC, an African company set up as a vehicle for investment in the EASSy system.
Experts have reported that the initial readings and calculations indicate that the fault location is approximately 342 Km from Djibouti Station. The SMW3 maintenance authority has mobilized the cable repair ship. However, they add that the exact extent of the damage is unknown the fibre cuts may be on EASSy, SMW3 and the Europe India Gateway (EIG).
As of writing of this article, a ship was at sea heading to the section of EASsy between Djibouti and Port Sudan to work on the suspected broken area.
So how is MTN Rwanda linked to EASsy? MTN accesses the cable through Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. More than 80 percent of MTN bandwidth goes through that section, but the company is linked to other systems like satellite and TEAMS (The East Africa Submarine System), based in Kenya.
The disruptions forced MTN Rwanda CEO, Khaled Mikkwai, to call a press conference February 21 to explain the situation. He said the company had moved its traffic to TEAMS and other sources, as the EASsy repairs continue.
He gave details about the EASsy breakdown. But also blamed the traffic disturbances on the upgrade MTN is doing on the 3G network. “…after 3G upgrades, capacity will increase from 14Mbs to 21Mbs,” he said.
What happened is that as public outcry increased MTN had to do something. It MTN re-routed all its traffic, sourcing additional capacity from various service providers, doubling available bandwidth.
The announcement caused speculation that MTN and TiGO are desperate to “”style up” ahead of the entry of Airtel next month which has promised to bring a 4G network. Mikkwai put on a brave face, saying the upgrades are routine – only aimed at providing better services.
Meanwhile, MTN Rwanda, with more than 2.1million subscribers, expects to earn some Rwf 90billion this year – up from Rwf 80billion last year. The revenue announcement raised a storm of criticism on social sites from distraught clients.
EASsy cable link-up to other systems (Courtesy photo)