Major Internet Outage After Submarine Cable Breaks

Last Thursday March 14, 2024 an important submarine internet cable on the MainOne network experienced a fault that is most likely caused by environmental factors.

vBoxx Team


Published on:

March 19, 2024

Last Update:

March 19, 2024

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Last Thursday March 14, 2024 an important submarine internet cable on the MainOne network experienced a fault that is most likely caused by environmental factors, according to MainOne’s FAQ on the matter.

What Happened?

The submarine cable, basically the digital lifeline of the whole of West Africa, took damage. The cable is located in the Atlantic Ocean, near the coast of West Africa offshore Cote D’Ivoire. MainOne is a major provider in the region, so this event did not just impact MainOne’s network, but also affected other systems, leading to connectivity issues across several countries.

Submarine cables are the backbone of the internet, and they carry over 99% of the international data. Companies like MainOne are very important, as they provide services to crucial companies like telecom operators, internet service providers, governmental agencies, and other essential infrastructure.

MainOne says submarine cable faults mostly occur due to human activities like fishing, earthquakes, landslides, and equipment failure. As the cable is located 3km deep, it is unlikely that this was caused by human activity. They suggest that it is most likely to be caused by some sort of seismic activity on the seabed. The cable needs to be retrieved to more accurately assess the situation.

Force Majeure Was Declared

MainOne has declared a Force Majeure, which describes an event beyond any reasonable control. They were also quick to declare the Force Majeure, as preliminary assessment quickly led to the conclusion of natural cause.

How The Issue Is Addressed

MainOne is working with Atlantic Cable Maintenance and Repair Agreement (ACMA). They will send a vessel, but are still unable to give us more information at the moment. The reason that the redundancy plan is not sufficient is because the backup systems are also impacted by outages, resulting in a very impactful outage.

At the moment, services are being restored to the extent possible. A vessel is being mobilized to repair the cable.

The Lessons

This incident, while rare, is a good reminder of the importance of these cables. At the same time, it also shows how fragile the internet as whole is. These submarine cables are also mentioned in some threats of malicious organizations. The cables are generally very well-protected, but in the case that something happens there might be big consequences.

This also shows the benefit of local infrastructure, as land cables have more backup systems and redundancy than submarine cables.

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vBoxx Team

vBoxx is on a mission to make the corporate world a safer space with a focus on data and privacy. Sharing our knowledge is important to us and we try our absolute best to get to the bottom of topics about the online world and privacy.

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