Underwater telecom cable back up

The Cayman Islands’ primary communications link was restored early Wednesday following a failure Sunday that caused Internet connection problems across the islands.

However, the communications restoration on the underwater link is a temporary fix, as the cause of the fault and extent of repair required 
is not yet known.

According to a statement from local telecommunications company LIME, “The MAYA-1 cable system is back in operation after a successful reconfiguration of the power between the Hollywood Cable Station [in Florida] in the USA and Half Moon Bay Cable Station in Grand Cayman.”

The impairment that caused the system problem was described as a “shunt fault” and could be anywhere on the 30-mile stretch of submarine cable between the Cayman Islands station and the first “repeater unit” offshore. A local divemaster was inspecting the shore end of the cable Tuesday, and a cable repair ship was on standby in case the fault was farther out to sea.

According to LIME, “All segments of MAYA-1 are now powered back up and carrying traffic as normal, however, LIME continue to work with the MAYA-1 consortium partners to determine the exact cause of the cable failure and the extent of the repair work required.”

Glen Daykin, deputy managing director of Cayman’s Information and Communications Technology Authority, said the fault interrupted the normal power supply from Cayman’s shores to the first repeater.

“What they had to do is power it from Miami,” he said.

Mr. Daykin said the power reconfiguration will be a temporary fix until they can find the fault and repair the cable, in order to resume powering the repeater from Cayman.

When the MAYA-1 cable failed, Cayman’s international data traffic was routed to the secondary Cayman-Jamaica Fibre System. During that time, some consumers reported having problems with international phone calls and Internet. On Monday, LIME said 34 per cent of its international circuits were down. Other service providers that also share the MAYA-1 cable, such as Digicel Cayman, Logic and WestStar, reported lesser degrees of impact.

Donnie Forbes, LIME Cayman Islands head of infrastructure and planning, said, “Our engineers have been working around the clock since Sunday to determine the cause of the problem. As soon as we recognised that we had a problem, we had our most experienced people along with our partners in the MAYA-1 consortium working on the issue. Finally, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, after a total power-down and reconfiguration of the way the system is energised, the system was restored.”

Mr. Forbes added, “The traffic on our Cayman-Jamaica Fibre System (CJFS) cable was not impacted and whilst customers did experience some degradation of service, our backup plans quickly went into operation and we moved the majority of impacted traffic onto CJFS, which meant customers were able to continue to do business. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in bringing MAYA-1 back on line and apologise to our customers for the inconvenience this has caused.”

Digicel Cayman CEO Chris Hayman said he was generally pleased with how the network handled the MAYA-1 fault, saying customers won’t notice as the traffic is restored to the MAYA-1 cable from the Cayman-Jamaica cable.

“I’m happy with the overall performance of the network,” he said.

The MAYA-1 cable system runs from Florida to Colombia, providing service to the US, Colombia, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and Panama. A consortium of some 35 service providers together own the cable, including AT&T, LIME parent company Cable & Wireless, Sprint and Telmex.

The Cayman-Jamaica cable is owned by Cable & Wireless and connects Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Kingston, Jamaica.

Cable & Wireless and the MAYA-1 consortium are members of the Atlantic Cable Maintenance Agreement, a nonprofit cooperative cable maintenance agreement where members are jointly responsible for operations and maintenance of undersea communications and power cables, as well as oil and gas platform operators, in the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and southeastern Pacific Ocean, according to LIME.

“Based on the nature of the fault, it is most likely that terms of this agreement will come into force for the repair,” according to a LIME statement.

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