A cable ship will begin a delicate repair job Friday, Sept. 20, to fix a fault along the Cayman Islands’ primary communications link, the Maya-1 cable.
Nearly two months since a “shunt fault” on the submarine cable system caused significant Internet connection issues across the island, the source of the problem has been located about 476 feet off the coast of Grand Cayman, near Half Moon Bay in East End.
Telecommunications firm LIME said customers could expect some “service degradation” while the work is carried out, but the widespread issues encountered when the initial fault occurred are not expected.
The ship, the Pacific Guardian, will begin a four-day repair job on Friday.
The location of the fault, relatively close to shore as well as to environmentally valuable coral reefs, make it a particularly complex job.
“Extreme care will be taken to preserve coral and marine wildlife of the area, as well as designated tourist dive sites,” the company said in a statement.
The Maya-1 cable, which provides Internet and international telephone capacity to the Cayman Islands, connects seven countries – the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Cayman, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. It is owned by a consortium of 35 companies, including Cable & Wireless, LIME’s parent company.
A contingency plan to override the fault and power-feed the cable from Miami has kept the communications artery in operation since the problem occurred in late July. This backup plan is not considered ideal, and the consortium has always indicated its plan to find and fix the fault.
Extensive testing has been going on to determine the exact location of the fault, which, theoretically, could have been anywhere between the cable station at Half Moon Bay and a repeater unit about 30 miles out to sea.
The Maya-1 cable will shut down and LIME will switch to a backup line from Jamaica while the repair is completed.
Donnie Forbes, head of infrastructure and planning for LIME in the Cayman Islands, said, “LIME has been heavily involved with the preparation and logistics of this complex repair and we anticipate that with favorable weather conditions it will be completed in approximately three to five days. Although some service degradation may be experienced, we won’t have the same widespread issues we encountered with the initial fault as, prior to the work commencing, traffic will be rerouted to the Cayman Jamaica Fibre System, which will ensure the majority of our customers’ services will be minimally impacted.”
In its statement, LIME added, “The repair operation will follow a similar plan to the original installation which took place in November 1999. The cable will be floated in from the cable ship and laid parallel to the existing cable.”