Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Niger - problems with SAT-3 in Benin caused a major loss of the Internet

[apc] Since July 2009, Niger and its neighbouring countries such as Benin, Togo and Nigeria have suffered an internet blackout owing to damage to the undersea SAT-3 cable, which links Europe to South Africa via several West African countries, giving them access to high-speed internet. The SAT-3 cable has no landing point in Niger, which is landlocked, but it does land in Benin, a bordering country through which Niger is connected, and which was logically also affected by damage to the cable. Niger and its neighbours, thus found themselves without a connection, with Niger being at Benin’s mercy with regard to reconnection. In the absence of a decent backup system, there is nothing that the citizens of Niger could do in the face of this impasse – 70% of their bandwidth is via Benin. Why does Niger depend exclusively on Benin for its connection, when an alternative (and temporary) satellite solution would have minimised the gravity of the situation?

Niger’s dependence on Beninese infrastructure may be attributed to the fact that Benin, a coastal country, owns the SAT-3 fibre optic cable which, provides Niger’s high speed connection, enabling an increase in speed from 25 Mb/s to 155 Mb/S. The traditional national operator, SONITEL, manages this link, without which Niger would have to resort to satellite connections which are practically non-existent and unaffordable, and therefore inconceivable as an everyday connectivity solution. Powerless in the face of this situation, it became a waiting game for Niger, while the cable ship dispatched to sea by Benin and the SAT-3 consortium from South Africa embarked on repairs.

Internet blackout in Niger: Niger’s dependence on the damaged Beninese fibre optic cable

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