Completion of HK undersea cable repairs delayed

ALL SHOOK UP: The earthquake off southern Taiwan last week damaged a group of submarine cables linking Asia to the world, resulting in unreliable telecom services


Mon, Jan 01, 2007 - Page 12

Hong Kong officials pushed back by one week the estimated completion date for initial repairs of the undersea communication cables damaged by an earthquake because of a problem with a cable ship.

The first part of repair work on one cable will be completed around Jan. 16 as one of two ships which arrived at the scene "experienced a major fault" yesterday afternoon, Hong Kong's Office of the Telecommunications Authority said in a statement yesterday. The ship is under "urgent repair" in Taiwan and this will take about a week, the regulator said.

Telephone companies, including Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), the nation's biggest carrier, are working to restore voice and Internet access after the powerful earthquake that hit southern Taiwan on Dec. 26, damaging a group of cables linking Asia to the rest of the world. Hong Kong's regulator had said the first part of repairs on one cable would be completed by Jan. 9.

Repair of most other cables is expected to be completed by the end of this month, the regulator said in the statement. Three more ships were on their way to the cables, the regulator said on Saturday.

Most Internet users will continue to experience slow access and should minimize non-essential activities that demand large bandwidth over international connections, the authority said.

PCCW Ltd (電訊盈科), Hong Kong's biggest telephone company, said it had recorded a "substantial improvement" in Internet access. The company reported "normal" voice services on Friday.

Mobile users should expect a longer delay for text messages to and from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the US and Canada as the new year approaches, because of increased traffic, the Hong Kong regulator's statement said.

"Phone calls and Internet connections are forecast to rise in time for the New Year, but we have prepared contingency plans in case anything happens," Kim Cheol-kee, a spokesman for KT Corp, South Korea's biggest phone and Internet company, said on Saturday.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, Southeast Asia's largest phone operator, said on Saturday that voice and Internet access were "back to normal."

In China, Internet services will not be back to normal until the middle of this month, a news report yesterday quoted the country's biggest telephone company as saying.

The Xinhua news agency quoted an unidentified China Telecom Corp (中國電信) official as saying that Internet service would be back to normal on Jan. 15.

"Heavy seas have made the repair work very difficult," the official was quoted as saying.