Satcom: The Fiber Cut Remedy

Heard about that Pacific earthquake near Taiwan while taking a break last week. Read in the New York Times how data and Internet traffic was significantly distrupted:

The quake disrupted services in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, but a ripple effect was felt in other parts of the world. Many phone subscribers could not get through to Europe, regional telecommunications operators reported, as they raced to reroute their traffic to alternative lanes.

How prepared was everyone with mission-critical operations suddenly stopping? How vulnerable are these undersea fiber optic cables?


Was it really that bad? Seems like it was. The Korea Times reported that 6 of Korea’s 7 cables were cut, disrupting banking operations:

LG Dacom, which provides Citibank Korea’s dedicated data cables, said that the bank’s lines were cut by the 6.7-magnitude quake that struck the southern part of Taiwan.

Citibank Korea said the disruptions would not have happened if the bank had its own communication network in Korea.

"A network systems team in Taiwan oversees Citibank transactions in Korea. Severance of the submarine cable cut our connections with them, causing all the problems,’’ an official said, requesting anonymity.

HSBC Korea also relies on a foreign carrier for dedicated data lines, which are managed by its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong.

Officials at KT and Dacom, Korea’s fixed-line operators, which jointly manage with foreign partners the cables damaged by the quakes, said other data lines were affected.

"A total of 92 dedicated data lines were severed, partially disrupting the operations of 32 of our corporate customers,’’ a KT official, Park Hae-dong, said.

KT’s clients include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Reuters, AT&T Korea, Posdata and SK Telink. Among financial clients are Metlife Korea, Korea Exchange Bank and Kookmin Bank.

Dacom, Citibank’s service provider, said the quake cut 26 of its lines.

Fortunately, satellites over the Pacific act as back-ups for some, while others rely exclusively on space-based redundancy for their critical communications. Several intra-Asian satellites, such as those operated by AsiaSat, came to the rescue. You can bet you sweet bippy trans-Pacific satellites such as Telstar 18, NSS-5, IS-701, AMC-23 and PAS-8 got some business from this outage.

 With communications returning to normal, we may not know the extent of the damage for another 2 weeks.  I can tell one thing we’ll know in a couple of weeks. THE hot topic at the Pacific Telecommunications Council’s annual conference in Honolulu will be the race to build another cable across the Pacific.