Millions of frustrated Internet users across Asia slowly regained access to overseas websites today, three days after an earthquake off the coast of Taiwan snapped several vital undersea cables. Telecoms operators across the region re-routed Internet links to circumvent the ruptured lines off the southern part of the island, as engineers donned diving suits to assess the damage and begin repairs.
“Everything is improving now,” said a spokesman for PCCW, Hong Kong’s largest fixed-line operator. ”All international call and roaming services have gone back to normal, including to Taiwan, although some websites are still congested,” he said. Hong Kong’s telecommunications authority said five maintenance ships had been dispatched to repair six fiber-optic cables, which handle about 90 percent of telecommunications capacity in the area. ”Overall there has been some improvement in access to the Internet today. However, most users will continue to experience slow access,” it said in a statement. The authority said it may take longer to repair the cables than the original estimate of five to seven days.
Taiwan’s largest phone company, Chunghwa Telecom, has commissioned three more ships to assist the repair effort. An official from Chunghwa said voice traffic to the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia remained relatively weak, but was improving. Internet users frustrated by their inability to log onto e-mail accounts, news websites and online banking services - conveniences that have become part of modern life - found access across the region improved today, but still patchy.
Southeast Asia’s largest telecom operator, Singapore Telecommunications, said it had established a “command centre” to restore full service as quickly as possible. ”Internet access to all websites has been normalised for emailing, browsing and online transactions,” it said in a statement. “Access to services such as gaming and video downloading, which require higher bandwidth, may experience some delays.”
In South Korea, Hong Seong-Yong, an official at the communications ministry, said: “Recovery work is moving ahead quickly, with nearly all financial institutions, including foreign banks, back to normal overnight.”
The Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency characterized the week’s web difficulties as “cyber-chaos”, with a source at China Netcom saying progress on restoring service had been slow. Connections remained slow in Malaysia and Thailand, where communications authority CAT Telecom said capacity had only been restored to 50 percent.
Indonesia’s telecoms authority said it could take up to a month to restore Internet capacity, which had fallen to just 17 percent following Tuesday’s quake. ”This incident is a major problem for us,” director general of post and telecommunications Basuki Yusuf Iskandar was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.