Break in Fibre-Optic Cable Damages Economy in Mozambique


The normal functioning of the economy throughout central Mozambique has been compromised by a break in the underwater fibre-optic cable operated by the publicly owned telecommunications company, TDM. Much of the modern sector of the economy which depends on internet connections is suddenly unable to operate.
The cut in the cable took place last Saturday, about seven kilometres south of the city of Xai-Xai, capital of the southern province of Gaza, where the cable is under 25 to 30 metres of water.
This is the second time this year that such a cut has occurred. The first was on 26 April, near the town of Vilankulo, in Inhambane province. Then a ship with the required specialist equipment was already in the vicinity, and so the cable could be repaired within a few days. This time TDM may not be so lucky, and has warned its clients that the cable will not be repaired for at least six weeks.
In the meantime, TDM has resorted to alternatives, such as satellite and micro-wave connections, but these, it says, "will only guarantee a minimum of communication". In the meantime, TDM is working to install a terrestrial fibre-optic cable between Maputo and Inchope in the central province of Manica. A TDM press release states that its contacts with the contractor laying the cable indicate that this work may be complete within two weeks, allowing the restoration of communications traffic to normal levels.
In the meantime, users of mobile telephony in much of the country find that their cell phones are dead, the Internet is unavailable, and many public and private bodies that had taken being on-line for granted have ground to a halt.
For instance, the new biometric identity cards and passports can no longer be issued anywhere north of Xai-Xai. The Mozambique Tax Authority can longer issue taxpayers with the tax identification number (NUIT), on which tax collection is largely based. Reservations for air tickets cannot be made outside of Maputo. The Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique" cannot receive articles and advertising from any other province.
Banks, however, have not come to a standstill as happened in April. Then it was impossible to withdraw money from any automatic cash machines (ATMs) anywhere in central and northern Mozambique.
According to a report on the independent television station, STV, the banks have learnt their lesson and have back-up systems in place, which allow them to offer at least some services to their clients.