Aftershocks Hamper Taiwan’s Cable Repair

Days after earthquakes
hit Taiwan, cutting communications cables linking the country with the rest
of the world, the country is still contending with the effects of aftershocks on its underwater communications system.

Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan’s largest communications provider, now says it is
using satellite connections to restore voice and data to Asia and the U.S.
The original plan was to route traffic over cables spared by the initial
quake, but the cables were hit by two aftershocks, according to an e-mailed
statement.

Chunghwa said ships are steaming toward the damaged cables, and repairs will be done “as soon as possible.” Verizon Communications , Chunghwa’s partner in a proposed $500 million undersea optical cable project directly linking the U.S. with China, said it could be two weeks before voice and data service return fully.

Telus, a Canadian operator, said its Asian operations have returned to
normal. However, calls to the Philippines remain at half capacity. A
spokeswoman said Internet users are still experiencing delays.

Increasing Internet capacity to Asia will be a topic of discussion among those
attending the annual Pacific Telecommunications Council meeting to be held
next month in Hawaii. Among the companies invited to the event are Verizon and
its competitors racing to build what the PTC terms an Asian-American
high-speed superhighway.

Asia Netcom, one of Asia’s largest telecom players, will speak at the
gathering. The company is talking with an Indian carrier proposing a link
between the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, mainland U.S. and Japan.

AT&T is also competing with Verizon to gain a foothold in
Asia. The telecom giant is mulling an alliance with Telekom Malaysia,
creating an Asian-American gateway.

A Rand Corp. study highlights the growing use of undersea cables to
deliver vital telecommunications. Around 80 percent of voice and data
traffic cross such cables, susceptible to ships’ anchors and even certain
sharks.

Unlike the U.S., which could reroute traffic across Canada or South America,
Rand said Taiwan would have fewer options.

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