State seeks ways around fibre cuts

March 19, 2012
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Fibre optic cable cuts has affected internet speeds/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – The government says it is building a system of fibre optic rings that will carry communication traffic in the event of a network disruption.

Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo says in case the fibre is severed, communications would be automatically re-routed around the failed area by way of the redundant ring thus ensuring that connectivity is not affected.

“We will begin to use different methods such as what is called the ‘ring method’ where if one part of the cable is cut, then traffic is re-routed to the other side of the ring immediately,” he said of the system that would reduce network disruptions to clients in Nairobi and Mombasa.

The system is said to have ‘self-healing’ configuration that ensures that the normal operating cycle continues even after a hitch on the network.

Currently, the country’s fibre cabling is done in a ‘straight’ line which makes the system prone to cuts.

The country has in the last four weeks witnessed more than five cable cuts which have negatively affected business operations with losses running into millions of shillings.

Kenya has an estimated 15 million Internet users which translates into 36.6 percent Internet penetration. Although the Communications Commission of Kenya estimates that 75per cent of the total users access the service through their mobile handsets, the outages are leaving most businesses exposed.

The East African Marine System (TEAMS) was cut in late February when a ship dragged its anchor on the cable in Mombasa. The incident happened just a few days after some of the onward cables from EASSy were also damaged.

Speeds were significantly degraded and the impact was immediate because TEAMS carries a lot of traffic for business in the East African region. The repairs are yet to commence, nearly a month later prolonging the agony for most firms.

Besides the slow speeds, most Internet Service Providers have had to incur additional costs as they seek emergency capacity for their clients.

AccessKenya Managing Director Jonathan Somen disclosed that the decision was motivated by the need to stabilise the networks for their customers.

“We have had to buy a lot of capacity from EASSy and other different sources and it has been expensive,” he said although he declined to divulge finer details of the arrangement.

Just last week, a major fibre cut was reported along Mombasa road that exacerbated the internet service delivery woes.

While some of these cuts have been accidental due to the ongoing construction works in many parts of the country, there are fears that others could be as a result of sabotage.

This has heightened calls from industry players for the government to fast track the enactment of the law that seeks to criminalise such acts.

The draft Bill which is soon going to be tabled before Parliament will recognise such acts as economic sabotage and mete heavy penalties on offenders.

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