Sluggish Internet connections

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-04 07:15

For mainland office workers and netizens of all stripes, 2007 has already been a test of patience.

More than a week after an earthquake disrupted access to the Web, office workers struggled with sluggish Internet connections yesterday as they returned from their three-day New Year holiday.

And they will have to wait a few weeks before the situation improves.

Two major Internet service providers on the mainland China Telecom and China Netcom said it would mid-January before they would be able to fully repair the damage to undersea telecommunications cables caused by the December 26 earthquake off the coast of Taiwan.

The quake, which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, damaged all nine fiber-optic cables that lie on the ocean floor south of Taiwan, affecting telecommunications traffic between the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Millions of people experienced difficulty and delays log on foreign Web sites due to high volumes of traffic on satellite service providers.

International direct dialling (IDD) calls, mobile phone services, faxes and text messaging services were also affected.

The earthquake left some cables trapped under the seabed and others tangled up, making the repair effort more difficult, the Xinhua News Agency said.

Five ships were dispatched to repair the damaged lines after the quake, it reported.

Workers used underwater robots to identify spots where the lines had been severed. The robots will retrieve the damaged parts so they can be fixed.

With ideal weather conditions and barring any unforeseen delays in the repair work, all international communication services are expected to be restored around January 15.

"We will have to add some new sections of cable - up to 400 meters - to reconnect the lines," an unnamed official with China Netcom, the country's second largest telecom operator, was quoted by Xinhua as saying yesterday.

A statement issued by China Telecom, China's largest telecom operator said some internet traffic had been re-routed after the earthquake via landline cables connecting China and Europe. Satellite transmissions were also used. Some 70 percent of overseas Internet connections have been re-established.

However, because of the severe damage to the cables connecting Asia and North America, access to Web sites hosted in North America and IDD calls will not improve until the undersea cables have been repaired.

As a result of the disruption, China's telecom operators have started considering laying cables along different routes to distribute the risk of damage caused by natural disasters.

China Telecom, in collaboration with the other five domestic operators, is building new undersea cable lines connecting China and the United States. The line is called the Trans-Pacific Express.

The cables will connect the US state of Oregon to Shanghai and Qingdao. The route is far removed from the region that was affected by the earthquake.

China Daily-Xinhua

(China Daily 01/04/2007 page3)

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