Out with it: our internet has been rather unhealthy this month. We’ve seen and heard everything from cries of constant drops to high pings (that’s from the gamers) to suddenly-halved download speeds. There’s a very simple reason for all of this: one of the undersea cables connecting Sri Lanka to the rest of the world has been damaged.
The cable in question is SEA-ME-WE-3, the aging line that connects us to South East Asia, Middle East and Western Europe. It’s operated on this end by Sri Lanka Telecom and carries not just SLT traffic, but is also rented out by a number of other ISPs in Sri Lanka. When damage occurs, traffic has to be re-routed and network paths reconfigured manually – an extensive task, we’re told, and one that might take over a week for any cable operator to manage.
According to sources from Hutchinson Telecom Lanka, the TRCSL and others, the damage has occurred on the eastern segment of the cable, towards Singapore. It’s believed that this is most likely caused by ships. Men take an arrow to the knee; undersea cables take an anchor to the face. Multiple sources confirm that currently, most data traffic is being routed through SEA-ME-WE-4.
The location of the damage correlates with the high latencies and low speeds that users have been experiencing to servers in Singapore and Western Europe – for example, connections to servers in Germany are barely operating at half the expected speed. Competitive gamers in particular have been hard-hit – social feeds are abuzz with talk of poor pings. Lankan Summoners League, an online League of Legends tournament which requires Sri Lanka gamers to connect to servers hosted abroad, has been postponed due to unacceptably high network latencies.
The silver lining is that Sri Lanka is soon to receive two more undersea cables: the BBG cable and SEA-ME-WE-5. BBG connects Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India to Oman and the UAE: SEA-ME-WE-5 is set to connect along a similar route. According to Asanga Ranasinghe of Hutch Sri Lanka, the introduction of the two cables would pose an interesting quandary for a while, as SEA-WE-ME-3 might eventually be decommissioned due to old age. In that case, the other cables would end up picking up that all data.