On Tuesday 5 December 2017 Zimbabwe experienced a huge internet outage that affected most of the country.
Techzim reached out to various sources in the industry to establish what really happened and have an appreciation of things. Below are the details we have so far.
At around 11:44 AM, a tractor that was ploughing a field in the Limpopo province in South Africa apparently cut through some fibre owned by one of Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe’s suppliers. The supplier is either Neotel (which the Liquid group owns) or Broadband Infraco, a South African state-own backhaul internet provider.
Once alerted to the problem, the Liquid Telecom supplier (we’re not too sure which of the two it may be) sent out a team to locate the cable break and at around 17:17 PM connectivity was restored.
Liquid is by far the largest internet provider in Zimbabwe having 81.4% market share of equipped international internet bandwidth.
At about the same time, coincidentally, TelOne, the second largest internet provider in Zimbabwe, also experienced a fibre cable failure on their Botswana link. According to a statement by TelOne, this link is a backup link for when their main link is down.
TelOne also set out to fix this fault, however, even with that restored, they were operating with half the capacity they normally have, so the internet was quite slow.
According to information we have, the fix by Liquid Telecom was a temporary solution just to restore some connectivity. The team on the ground will apparently work through the night in order to restore full connectivity.
As Liquid Telecom supplies a number of local Internet Providers in the country, their going down had a domino effect on connectivity in the country, essentially causing a large portion of the country’s internet to go down.
Mobile operators were not spared. The largest mobile internet provider, Econet Wireless, was affected the most. NetOne was also affected, albeit briefly. It’s not clear how much Telecel, the smallest mobile internet provider (7.6% market share) was impacted, but some subscribers have said it was much slower than usual.
The resultant overall downtime in the country reflected the dependency on the Liquid/Econet group.
Essentially the only international capacity Zimbabwe had today was that by Dandemutande, Powertel, Africom (together providing about 4% of the internet in Zimbabwe) and TelOne (providing about 7.5% due to the outage).
Statements have been issued by Econet and TelOne thus far. Techzim has reached out to Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe for an official statement and a response is yet to come. We are particularly curious how Liquid was not able to reroute Zim traffic through its other fibre links coming into Zimbabwe like that from East Africa through Zambia.
Attempts to contact Broadband Infraco via the telephone numbers were fruitless at the time of publishing.