By Shingie Lev Muringi
Zimbabwe on Tuesday afternoon experienced a nationwide Internet blackout from mid morning lasting late into the evening, causing panic on consumers.
The country’s major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) namely Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe, TelOne, and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) like Econet, NetOne & Telecel all went down due to a massive service disruption on their major links.
The Internet glitch saw 98% of Zimbabwe’s Internet traffic going down as dominant applications like Facebook and Whatsapp could not be accessed by local subscribers. This also meant a total downtime for all the local banks which depend heavily on major service providers like Liquid Telecom and TelOne.
After a thorough investigation throughout the night, 263Chat managed to gather authentic information from the telecom players on what really transpired yesterday.
A source from Econet revealed to us that their service was disrupted due to a fiber break on Liquid Telecom’s major link to South Africa which happened in the Limpopo Province between Beitbridge and Mussina. Liquid Telecom provides total IP Back-haul for the Econet Group through is robust fiber optic network which spans across Africa.
This morning Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe apologised to the masses for the inconveniences caused.
“Liquid Telecom sincerely regrets the inconvenience caused to our valued customers as a result of service outage between 1145hours and 1715hours on Tuesday 5 December 2017. This resulted from a fault on our main network link in South Africa and a series of unprecedented faults that occurred soon thereafter on our two other links providing redundancy into Zimbabwe.
“Normal service has since been restored. We are currently taking urgent measures to reinforce, improve and guarantee secure backup links to avoid a recurrence of this situation in the future. Once again we sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to all our customers and stakeholders.”
The disruption of Liquid Telecom’s link to South Africa also meant a total blackout for all users subscribing to the ISPs retail powerhouse ZOL which has the highest Fiber-to-the-Home active subscribers.
Investigating on the major cause of Liquid Telecom’s fiber link breakdown in Limpopo, sources confirmed that a tractor plowing 18 kilometers from Beitbridge in the province cut one of the operator’s fiber optic cables around 11:44 AM. Liquid Telecom was able to locate the fault through its South African partners around 5pm in the evening and engineers worked throughout the night to restore normal service.
Liquid Telecom commands over 70% of the Internet Service Provider market share in Zimbabwe which had a huge impact on Econet, ZOL and other operators who rides on its wholesale carrier network. This on its own showed Zimbabwe’s total dependence of Liquid Telecom’s international network infrastructure.
Owned by the Econet Group, Liquid Telecom has built a massive fiber optic ring owning up to 17,000km of fiber in Zimbabwe and 50,000km across Africa.
In Zimbabwe, the operator has the largest network capacity of over 40 Gigabytes per second while the country is only utilizing around 20 Gigabytes. This leaves Liquid Telecom with an excess capacity of over 19 Gigabytes on its major operational links.