Despite Quake Japan’s Undersea Cables Still Hold


Japan is a hub for trans-Pacific undersea cables that provide Internet access between many regions of the world. About 20 submarine cables land in Japan, giving Friday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake the potential to disrupt communications around the globe. Luckily, so far, reports of cable damage have been low, according to TeleGeography.

Stephan Beckert, an analyst with the research firm, which tracks telecommunications, says that, so far, the quake has likely damaged APCN-2 intra-Asian cable, which forms a ring linking China, Hong Kong, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan. However, the web traffic in the region has not been disrupted. Beckert emailed me the following:

It’s not clear how much damage there has been to undersea cables, but thus far, there haven’t been any reports of major disruptions. There’s one report of 2 or 3 cables being damaged, but the report is riddled with errors (calls them undersea power cables, and says it will disrupt phone calls to China), so I’m discounting it, for now.

The most concrete report I have is from Chunghwa Communications of Taiwan, which reports that the earthquake damaged the APCN-2 intra-Asian cable, but that communications have not been disrupted. It’s not clear from their statement if the APCN-2 cable is still carrying traffic, or if APCN-2 is down and Chunghwa is rerouting traffic over alternate cables. I suspect it’s the latter.

This is no small mercy, given how important communications are in the aftermath of a disaster of this nature. Texts, tweets, web services, such as the recent Google’s People Finder registry, all rely on Internet connectivity provided through those cables. Below is a map of the undersea cables that land in Japan provided by TeleGeography, and we’ll update the story if we get more details.

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