SeaMeWe-3 Experiences Another Cable Break

May 11, 2018 David Belson

On Thursday, May 10 at approximately 02:00 UTC, the SeaMeWe-3 (SMW-3) subsea cable suffered yet another cable break. The break disrupted connectivity between Australia and Singapore, causing latencies to spike as illustrated below in our Internet Intelligence tool, because traffic had to take a more circuitous path.

The SMW-3 cable has had a history of outages, which we have reported on multiple times in the past, including August 2017, December 2014, and January 2013.

Latencies to/from Perth, Australia spike as SMW-3 submarine cable suffers fault off the coast of Singapore on 2-Dec. New fault occurred only six weeks following repair of previous fault on same cable segment.

— InternetIntelligence (@InternetIntel) December 4, 2017

The incident summary posted by cable owner Vocus Communications for this most recent break noted that “There is no ETR at this stage.” However, based on our observations of past outages, time to recovery has been measured on the order of weeks.

While this subsea cable is currently the only one carrying traffic from Western Australia to South East Asia, there are several additional cable projects in process that will help address this long-standing issue. The Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC) is expected to be ready for service in July 2018, and the Indigo-West Cable is expected to be ready for service in 1Q 2019. Both cables will connect Perth to Singapore. Given the great expense of repairing submarine cable breaks and the fact that a replacement cable will be live soon, it will be interesting to see if the Perth-Jakarta-Singapore segment of SMW-3 ever gets fixed at all.

SMW-3 isn’t the only cable in the region that has suffered repeated cable breaks. AAG’s link to Vietnam also suffers cable breaks with regularity. The most recent one occurred in late April, and it saw five issues in 2017.

Latencies to providers in #Philippines increased dramatically as a result of another AAG submarine cable cut. This time between Hong Kong and Philippines.

— InternetIntelligence (@InternetIntel) May 1, 2018

The cable breaks experienced by AAG and the Perth-Jakarta-Singapore segment of SMW-3 have occurred in some of the busiest waters in the world for fishing and shipping, not to mention this is also a region prone to typhoons, earthquakes and underwater landslides. The frequency with which the SMW-3 and AAC cables experience breaks have led my colleague Doug Madory to question which should hold the title of the “world’s breakiest cable”.



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