Cable company refuses to explain fault

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 11:15 16/01/2013
Sea-Me-We 3

BIG JOB: The Sea-Me-We 3 optical submarine telecommunications cable is the longest in the world.

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The consortium in charge of the Sea-Me-We 3 submarine cable that failed six days ago resulting in delays to the delivery of Xtra email has refused to say whether the cable fault was accidental or might have been sabotage.

Consortium chairman Yves Ruggeri said the "management of SMW3 don't communicate on this kind of issue", referring questions to "appropriate carriers", which he did not name.

Singapore telecommunications carrier, SingTel, which is understood to have a contract to manage the subsea cable had earlier directed inquiries to the consortium.

SingTel corporate communications manager Sonny Waye said questions about the cause of the fault were best directed to Ruggeri, who is also the director of network strategy and submarine systems at France Telecom-Orange.

It is not unusual for subsea cables to be cut by ships' anchors or, more occasionally, by earthquakes in shallow waters. However, deep-sea faults are more unusual.

Australia's ITnews reported the fault on the Perth-to-Singapore leg of the 39,000 kilometre cable network occurred in deep water 1126 kilometres from Singapore. A cable repair ship would arrive on the scene on February 7 and repairs would likely take four days, it said. It quoted the chief executive of Australian Sea-Me-We 3 customer Vocus, James Spenceley, as saying the cable was relatively vulnerable because it was a "single strand cable system".

Telecom spokeswoman Jo Jalfon said its outsourced email provider, Yahoo, had re-routed its traffic to other international cables and it hoped the backlog of delayed mail would be cleared today.

The cable break could have affected Xtra emails sent domestically within New Zealand as well as internationally, as even these could be processed overseas and routed via Singapore by Yahoo, she said.

Jalfon said both Telecom and Yahoo only learned of the fault yesterday, five days after the cable failure, so Telecom may have been premature in blaming Yahoo for poor communication over the incident.

By yesterday, 80 customers had complained, but others might be unaware of the problem because it only affected outgoing and not incoming mail, she said. Fairfax Media has asked Ruggeri when the Sea-Me-We 3 consortium advised its customers of the fault.

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- The Dominion Post

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