HARARE – Internet users suffered nearly six hours of downtime yesterday after service providers suffered a major fibre outage.
The country is estimated to have lost millions of United States dollars in revenue, as a result, since most of the communication is now being done through the Internet.
Liquid Telecom — a unit of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe — and TelOne, which is government-owned, are the two market players with equipped international Internet bandwidth.
TelOne issued a statement yesterday apologising for the Internet interruption.
“This is due to faults that occurred on our main links through South Africa and Botswana. Our back-up link through Botswana has since been restored and, together with the link through Mozambique, we are operating at 50 percent capacity,” said TelOne.
“Our partners in South Africa and TelOne engineers here in Zimbabwe are on the ground working to restore full service on the said major link”.
Econet Wireless also issued a statement apologising for the outage.
Part of the statement reads: “Econet Wireless apologises to its valued customers for the data outage experienced today (December 5, 2017) resulting in customers being unable to access the Internet and related data services on our network . . . the outage was due to a technical fault which has since been resolved”.
Internet service went down at around 11:30hrs, only for normalcy to be restored well after 5pm.
This affected major providers of Internet services among them Liquid, ZOL, Econet and NetOne.
NetOne customers on OneFusion were not affected after the company switched to a backup link.
Telecel and TelOne were also not affected.
“The outage was a big deal because of the amount of users that ride on Liquid Telecom, over 75 percent when looking at just Econet alone. According to the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe Industry Performance Report for Quarter 2 2017, Liquid Telecoms Zimbabwe carries 81,4 percent market share of equipped international Internet bandwidth,” said TechZim, a news blog.
According to Cyber Security minister Supa Mandiwanzira, the Internet providers told him that their fibre cables had been damaged.
“To be honest, we are very upset as government. As the minister of Information Communication Technology, the country cannot experience a shutdown at a time when we actually should be focusing at enabling business. The Internet is key in enabling business and doing transactions,” he said.
“Soon after Cabinet, I have been receiving calls from those in the travel business who are unable to process tickets for their clients. The immigration department and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) are down because they rely on the Internet,” he added.
Mandiwanzira revealed calling TelOne managing director Chipo Mtasa to enquire about the development.
He was advised by Mtasa that their fibre cables which bring bandwidth via Beitbridge had been cut by city council officials who were working somewhere in Kuwadzana.
“I also called Wellington Makamure from Liquid Communications who said a tractor had ripped through their fibre cables 17 kilometres into South Africa from Beitbridge and that has created a problem,” Mandiwanzira said.
This led to an almost total shutdown of the Internet services, especially in Harare.
Mandiwanzira said it was high time clients demand quality service from the Internet providers.
“People are failing to communicate via WhatsApp; they can’t talk on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. I think we need to refocus on ensuring that our people get quality services. It’s high time we demand quality from these service providers,” said Mandiwanzira.
“In terms of the Internet provider’s application for licences, they should have what is called redundancy, which ensures that if one connection fails the other one will go up. Why don’t they have it when they gave assurance to the regulator that they have redundancy? I will meet with the regulator to crack the whip on the operators and possibly fine them”.
Mandiwanzira later addressed a press conference to update the media on the development.
He said government’s role was to promote business, adding that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was at the forefront of pushing for productivity and growth.
“We as government, we have no interest to shut down Internet that’s number one, number two, we are actually upset that Internet connectivity is not available or hasn’t been available for most of the day,” he said.