Tsunami, earthquake damage undersea fiber-optic cables in Japan

March 16, 2011
Japan--Following the massive earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan on Friday, major telecom operators scrambled to minimize the impact of damage to several fiber-optic submarine cables.

Japan--Following the massive earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan on Friday, major telecom operators scrambled to minimize the impact of damage to several fiber-optic submarine cables. Many Asian telecom operators and users were reporting some disruptions in Internet access Monday, though the partial restoration of service was accomplished by rerouting optical communications traffic over undamaged cables and via satellites.

About half of the existing cables running across the Pacific are damaged and "a lot of people are feeling a little bit of slowing down of Internet traffic going to the United States," said Bill Barney, chief executive of Hong Kong-based cable-network operator Pacnet. He declined to name the damaged cables operated by other companies, but said Pacnet's cable system connecting Japan to the U.S. isn't damaged so far. Some operators were unaffected. A spokeswoman for Australian operator Telstra Corp. (TLS.AU) said none of the company's undersea cable infrastructure was damaged.

The submarine fiber-optic cables, which can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, are typically owned by consortia of telecom companies, who share costs and capacity. While the clusters of glass fibers are enclosed in protective material, they remain vulnerable to undersea earthquakes, fishing trawlers, and ship anchors. There are also many choke points around the globe where a number of key cables converge.

While the extent of the damage to undersea cables is still unclear and financial losses unknown, operators said they are undergoing an inspection and looking to expedite restoration. Japanese telecom operator KDDI Corp. (9433.TO) said Monday one of its undersea cables between Japan and the U.S. has been damaged by the earthquake and is unable to transmit any signals, but a spokesman said the company didn't know if the cable was cut or having connection problems. The damaged part is far offshore, and it may take a while for KDDI to identify and address the problem but services are recovering after the quake, as the company can bypass the damaged part and use other cables instead, the spokesman said.

Pacific Crossing, a unit of Japan's NTT Communications Corp. that operates a cable network between Japan and the U.S., said Monday the Pacific Crossing PC-1 W and PC-1 N parts of its network remained out of service due to the earthquake. NTT Communications said some of its services for enterprises were partially unavailable in Japan's Tohoku region, but that for submarine cables between Japan, other parts of Asia and the U.S. the company is using backup cable routes.

An official from Taiwan operator Chunghwa Telecom Co. (2412.TW) said Friday the earthquake caused damage near Kita on the eastern coast of Japan to an undersea cable that belongs to the Asia Pacific Cable Network 2, which is owned by a consortium of 14 telecom operators led by AT&T Inc. (T). AT&T didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

China Telecom Corp. (CHA), China's largest fixed-line operator by subscribers, was making emergency repairs on Friday to undersea cables damaged by the earthquake, Xinhua News Agency reported. The company said submarine fiber-optic cables connecting Japan and North America and a Pacific Crossing 1 cable near the city of Kitaibaraki, in Japan's northern Ibaraki Prefecture, were malfunctioning due to the earthquake. A China Telecom spokeswoman wasn't immediately available to comment on Monday on the status of the repairs.

Xinhua on Monday cited China Telecom as saying the company had restored 65 gigabytes of outbound capacity, after the quake had disrupted 105 gigabytes of outbound Internet capacity and another 7 gigabytes of privately leased cable capacity.

Several companies said they avoided significant service disruptions by rerouting data traffic, including South Korean telecom operator KT Corp. (KT), which said a cable that is part of the Japan-U.S. Cable Network was cut; SK Telink Corp., an affiliate of South Korean operator SK Telecom Co. (SKM); and Globe Telecom Inc. (GLO.PH) of the Philippines.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal online; http://online.wsj.com/article_email/BT-CO-20110314-705433-kIyVDAtMUMxTzEtNTIxMDUxWj.html

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

Sponsored Recommendations

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

How to Tune Servo Systems: The Basics

April 10, 2024
Learn how to tune a servo system using frequency-based tools to meet system specifications by watching our webinar!

Motion Scan and Data Collection Methods for Electro-Optic System Testing

April 10, 2024
Learn how different scanning patterns and approaches can be used in measuring an electro-optic sensor performance, by reading our whitepaper here!

How Precision Motion Systems are Shaping the Future of Semiconductor Manufacturing

March 28, 2024
This article highlights the pivotal role precision motion systems play in supporting the latest semiconductor manufacturing trends.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!