The SEA-ME-WE3 cable which links Europe, the Middle East and Asia has been cut by tropical storms between Singapore and Perth. The Asia America Gateway and the Intra Asia system failed at the same time, leaving Vietnam and Pakistan as the worst hit. 

Vocus Communications confirmed on 30 August that there was a break in the SEA-ME-WE3 cable, which would cause delays in dlivering traffic to Asian destinations, and gave a “tentative” repair date of 13 October. The break is believed to have been caused by heavy tropical storms in the South China Sea, which also hit the Asia American Gateway and Intra Asia systems, according to Vietnam news source VNExpress. Tropical Storm Pakhar and Typhoon Hato hit the Hong Kong and Macau region last week, killing twelve people.

Comms problems in the region recently hit Pakistan, where the economy suffered a Rs1bn ($150m) loss earlier this month as a result, according to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA): a fault in the IMEWE cable was combined with continuing repairs to SEA-ME-WE4 and a problem with the IMV cable from India to France. 

subsea cable fiber submarine
– Nexans

Storm damage

The venerable SEA-ME-WE3 is the longest cable system in the world, which must make failures statistically more likely; recent problems include a cut in December 2016, a troublesome break in September 2015, which took months to fix, as well as previous outages in 2014 and others before.

The system is showing its age; SEA-ME-WE3 (which stands for South Wast Asia - Middle East - Western Europe 3) was deployed in the 1990s by France Telecom and China Telecom, and opened in 2000. In 2014, Australia’s Vocus Communications brought a ten percent stake in the project.

The subsequent SEA-ME-WE4 and SEA-ME-WE5, opened in 2005 and 2017 respectively, are complementary systems rather than replacements, given the continuous increase in demand for capacity. 

Meanwhile, Vocus and Alcatel Submarine Networks are building a replacement for the Australia-Asia section of SEA-ME-WE3. The Australia Singapore Cable (ASC) is due to open in 2018. 

Elsewhere, in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Harvey has hit Houston, with data centers affected as the population and infrastructure suffered extreme disruption.