Experiencing slow internet access? Damaged underwater cables are the cause

Mobile telecommunications network provider, MTN, has been sending text messages to subscribers apologizing for ‘slow data speeds and difficulty with accessing the internet’. Being the largest firm in the sector, the impact may be telling on businesses as some banks in the country are reportedly experiencing hiccoughs leading to long queues today.

However, findings reveal the ‘slow data speeds’ may not be unconnected to damage to two important underwater cables, the West Africa Cable System (WACS) and South Atlantic 3 (SAT3). The cables connect Nigeria and most African countries to the outside world.

According to NetBlocks.org, an organisation that tracks internet services, apart from Nigeria, notable African countries such as South Africa, Angola, Ghana, Cameroon are also presently experiencing disruption to internet services.

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From a mere 16 African countries in 2009, submarine cables currently serve over 33 nations on the continent. MainOne, WACS, SAT3, ACE, and Glo1 are 5 marine cables that land on Nigeria shore, thereby connecting Africa’s largest economy to the rest of globe.

Meanwhile threats to submarine cables are real. Shipping and fishing activities, in additions to off-shore activities in the oil and gas industries, and natural disasters comprising storm surges, Tsunami, and many others can impact the health of marine cables.

Nigeria’s internet penetration is projected to reach 83% by 2023, going by statistics provided by Statista, a research portal. Reaching that target from a mere 47.1% of the population in 2018 is possible but more work needs to be done.

However, affordability of internet data is increasing as competition among the top network providers and broadband firms for subscribers’ Naira intensifies. Import of Chinese low cost smartphone brands has added to the incentives.

With e-commerce, Fintech, and other internet-related ventures dominating the new phase of entrepreneurship in Nigeria, data speed and affordability are extremely important.

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