Chinese mainland telephone operators have partially restored telecommunications disrupted by the severing of undersea cables off the Taiwan coast.
An earthquake on Tuesday night cut several submarine cables near the southern coast off Taiwan, shutting down or slowing the Chinese mainland's access to overseas websites and international calls.
China Telecom Corp said it had "basically" restored all the international calls and services provided to its big corporate customers by 10 pm yesterday.
Nearly 15 per cent of Internet-related circuits affected by the earthquake have been restored.
China Netcom said two boats had started repairing the damaged lines and three others were on their way to help out. The firm expects international telecommunications to be restored "within days."
A spokesman with the Ministry of Information Industry said the government and telephone operators have initiated emergency plans which have helped ease the disruptions.
A spokeswoman with China Telecom said most of the international-related Internet traffic is being "re-routed" via landline cables connecting China and Europe. Satellite transmission is also being used but it lacks the capacity of fibre-optics.
China in recent years has laid several fibre-optic cables, which have advantages in capacity and efficiency compared to the legacy cables in Europe which were laid several yeas ago, the China Telecom spokeswoman said.
That has helped the Chinese mainland cushion the present disruptions, she said.
Hong Kong, for instance, has been hit harder as it relies on submarine cables.
China Telecom said it had provided assistance such as restoring circuits and re-directing phone calls to operators in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
The danger of outages in undersea cables, however, still looms large. It could pose a challenge for operators in dealing with emergencies during major events such as the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
In 2001, a cable linking China and the United States was disrupted more than four times, which affected Internet communications. Most disruptions were caused by fishing boats.
A fishing boat, registered in Zhejiang Province, damaged an undersea cable on April 6, 2004. This disrupted international communications to some parts of China including Shanghai.
Fishermen had entered a forbidden zone designed to protect the submarine cables. They were fined 6,000 yuan (US$760), the first case of its kind under a regulation in 2004 to protect undersea cables.
In that incident, China Netcom suffered a loss of 6 million yuan (US$760,000), and an indirect loss estimated at 60 million yuan. It took China Netcom 15 days to restore the service.
(China Daily 12/29/2006 page2)