Rwanda: MTN Explains Internet Disruption due to fibre cuts, announces Increased Capacity


Reacting to the irregular Internet connection experienced by MTN users over the past days, the CEO of MTN Rwanda, Khaled Mikkawi, on Tuesday explained this is due to multiple cuts in the undersea fiber cables between Djibouti and Port Sudan.

While acknowledging that both MTN broadband and mobile data users experienced disruptions, Mikkawi announced that measures are being taken to bring the situation back to normal.

"Our fiber capacity depends on two cables: 80% of our traffic is driven through the EASSy (East African Submarine Cable System) undersea cable and 20% through TEAMS (The East African Marine System)," Mikkawi explained.

As the CEO pointed out, the cuts affected all telecom operators that depended on the EASSy cable in the sub-Saharan region and the impact of the cuts was substantial as MTN remained with only 20% of the international bandwidth capacity. "We have currently re-routed our traffic through TEAMS and have looked for other service providers to give us additional capacity, which will double the available bandwidth," he declared.

Before this problem occurred, however, MTN network users had already been experiencing interference and outages. "The reason behind the outages is the upgrades that were carried out to expand our infrastructure," Mikkawi said. "As a growing telecom operator, this is needed to increase our outlet capacity and better serve our subscribers."

Those upgrades were done to increase 3G sites by over 30%. "With more people using smartphones and requiring more of our data services, this upgrade is necessary," Mikkawi pointed out.

Tests and optimization exercise have been carried out on the new 3G sites. "The challenge is to do that while keeping our clients and subscribers online," the MTN boss said. "I can compare it to upgrading a road to make it wider and better without interfering with the traffic."

Given that the optimization exercise has to be done at the same time, this caused some disturbance.

MTN's chief Marketing Officer, Yvonne Manzi Makolo said that MTN is currently working on a compensation plan for all data clients including those with BlackBerry smart phones. "Yet the compensation plan cannot be implemented before all upgrades are completed and the fiber capacity fully restored," she explained. "Voice subscribers are billed per second so they didn't lose any money although they were inconvenienced by the upgrades."

And Mikkawi announced that when the networks are once again fully operational, they will have a bigger capacity - from 14 megabytes per second to 21 megabytes. "Our customers will feel the difference," he said, adding that in the course of this week the network will be opened to its full capacity.