Earthquake-hit cable almost 'restored'

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-30 07:16

Mainland telephone operators have almost restored communications disrupted by an earthquake off the southern coast of Taiwan last month that severed undersea cables.

China Telecom, the country's largest fixed-line carrier, said in a statement issued at 4pm yesterday that it had "basically" restored all its international call and Internet services over the weekend after repairing the main cable.

The FNAL cable carries most of China's telecommunications with North America and Internet connections with the rest of the world, said Guan Li, spokeswoman for China Telecom.

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But Guan refused to say how much loss was caused by the cable breakdown.

In a similar statement issued hours later, China Netcom, the nation's second-largest telecom operator, said it had "basically restored" its international telecommunication service, especially with North America.

It shares the FNAL cable with China Telecom.

Both statements said that several other cables which carry a small portion of the traffic would be fully repaired in the next two weeks.

A December 26 earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale cut several undersea cables near Taiwan, slowing the mainland's access to overseas websites to a crawl and affecting international calls.

The government and telephone operators then initiated emergency plans.

Most of the international Internet traffic was re-routed via landline cables connecting China and Europe, and satellite transmission was also used, a China Telecom spokeswoman said earlier.

The telecom regulator in Hong Kong, which was hit harder as it relies more on submarine cables, yesterday said most of the seven submarine cables damaged by the temblor have now been fixed, adding that one will take longer than estimated because of bad weather.

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) said repair work would be completed at the end of February, instead of mid-February as had been anticipated earlier.

"Bad weather, technical problems and other reasons are causing the delay," said OFTA Director-General Au Man-ho.

However, he said Internet providers had diverted Web traffic and that the delay was not having a significant impact on Internet services in Hong Kong.

"According to our reports from the providers, all services are largely back to normal it's approaching 100 percent," he said.

Au said a new warning system would be set up next month to alert the public if a similar Internet breakdown occurs again.

The earthquake snapped several international telecom cables, sparking widespread communication disruptions in the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and elsewhere.

In April 2004, it took China Netcom 15 days to restore service after a fishing boat from Zhejiang Province damaged an undersea cable. The company suffered a loss of 6 million yuan (US$760,000) in that incident, and indirect losses were estimated at 10 times the amount.

(China Daily 01/30/2007 page1)

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