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Summary:

The horrific earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in Japan have caused widespread damage to undersea communications, according to data collected by telecom industry sources. Initially, the damage to the cables that connect Japan to other parts of the world was said to be limited.

The horrific earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in Japan have caused widespread damage to undersea communications, according to data collected by telecom industry sources. Initially, it was thought that the damage to the cables that connect Japan and Asia to each other and other parts of the world was limited, but new data shows the extent of the problems.

According to research firm, Telegeography, the following cables have been damaged:

  • APCN-2, which is an intra-Asian cable, forms a ring linking China, Hong Kong, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan.
  • Pacific Crossing West and Pacific Crossing North, which are out of service.
  • PacNet has reported outages on segments of its East Asia Crossing network.
  • Korea Telecom reports that a segment of the Japan-U.S. Cable Network is damaged
  • NTT has reported damage to some segments of the PC-1 submarine cable system.

Most of the damaged network routers land in the Ajigaura or Kitabaraki landing stations, which are between Tokyo and Sendai (see map.) The tsunami and earthquake have not damaged Japan’s cable landing stations that are in the South of Tokyo, or on other side of the sheltered inlet that becomes Tokyo Bay, Telegeography said.

“We’re not aware of disruptions to any of the many cables that land here,” Stephan Beckart of Telegeography wrote in an email. “All of the cable systems that have reported outages also operate cables that land to the South of Tokyo, so no system appears to have suffered a complete outage.

A report from Dow Jones Newswires suggests most companies are working hard to fix the network problems. The Dow Jones report has the following additional details:

  • KDDI says its cable between the U.S. and Japan is broken and it cannot transmit signals.
  • NTT is using back-up cable systems.
  • PCCW says the Internet traffic to the U.S. is slow.

In a story on Friday, Stacey Higginbotham pointed out that Chunghwa of Taiwan had reported an outage on the APCN-2 system, while China Unicom had reported some unspecified damage to “two or three cables.” There is clear decline in Japan’s Internet performance, according to the data from JPNAP.

  1. Hadn’t considered the telegeography issues – I’ve just learned something new. Thnx for bringing that to my attention.

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  2. Me too…i have just added new dimension to the problem. as am trying to understand the whole picture of the effect.

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  3. Satellite links are susceptible to space junk and solar flares, cable links are susceptible to natural disasters such as these. Difficult problems to get around.

    Not sure if this is related but there was a reporter on the local news giving an update from Tokyo via Skype last night and the frame rate and resolution were absolutely terrible. As poor quality as cable news reports in Afghanistan via satphones in 2002-03.

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    1. There’s a reason it’s called “space” — there a lot of it out there. Geosynchronous spacecraft and space debris seldom collide. Small meteors, maybe. Most are hardened, space-proven machines that run for 15+ years without interruption and can handle electro-magnetic solar winds, etc.

      Satcom’s good for back-up: http://www.reallyrocketscience.com/node/458

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  4. I think posting that traffic graph here is misleading. There is no reason to believe that the decline in traffic is due to undersea cable damage – maybe it has, you know, something to do with the thousands and thousands of people displaced by the disaster, rolling blackouts in other parts of the country, and general disturbance to Japan’s infrastructure.

    I hate misleading crap like this and misuse of technical information.

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    1. Clearly the graph states “There is clear decline in Japan’s Internet PERFORMANCE” not “traffic”.

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      1. It is a graph of Internet traffic, the title is misleading. Notice that the vertical axis is Gigabits (per second), a unit of traffic.

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  5. If the system was designed robustly — and there is every indication that it was — then a shortage of bandwidth is just a nuisance and not a calamity. Given the scope of everything ELSE still going on, I’d say the fact that things are within 10 or 15% of previous levels indicates that there is really NO PROBLEM HERE, or at least not one that is important right now.

    One of the things that struck me in the early hours following the quake was that the communications infrastructure in Japan seemed to still be functioning quite well — and where it failed it was due to a massive spike in demand. At least that’s how it looked from THIS side of the ocean.

    I hope that this small blessing helps the recovery effort in some way, but at the very least it should help stave off cabin fever for millions.

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  6. I agree with Maria, Even I learned about theses fact in this post I appreciate Om’s post, even the data of human casualty is not appropriate till now and you have data of cables. It is really great work.

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  7. I know my ability to stream television from England to Australia has been almost impossible since last weekend. Stuttering and stop/starting. In Fact its unwatchable. I was wondering if the earthquake had affected it.

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  8. Interesting stuff! Question: What is the source of the pictures? Where can I find them in a higher resolution? It’s not really good journalistic style to leave out your sources!…but that is to be expected through the careless “bloggification” of most news websites…

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