back to article Submarine cable cut lops Terabits off Australia's data bridge

Another of the submarine cables connecting Australia to the world, for data, has broken. PPC-1, which stretches from Sydney to Guam and has 1.92 terabits per second capacity, is out of service until at least March 7. TPG's announcement says the fault is around 4,590 km from the cable's Guam landing, which means it's around 3, …

  1. Adam 1

    yet another reason

    to use a VPN service.

    1. Martin Summers

      Re: yet another reason

      Wtf is that meant to mean? How is that relevant?

      1. Adam 1

        Re: yet another reason

        The problem is with the TPG owned cable. If you connect to a VPN endpoint in Australia (mine has Sydney or Melbourne options), your traffic that would ordinarily travel across that cable won't. It will go via the VPN provider infrastructure from that point onwards.

        Won't help you in Tassie obviously.

    2. Androgynous Cowherd

      Re: yet another reason

      And your VPN is connected via cables made of magical unicorn horns?

      Just think.

      1. cd

        Re: yet another reason

        I think he meant VPC, Virtual Private Cable. I'm hoping he posts where he got his.

        1. P. Lee

          Re: yet another reason

          I think the point is that routing metrics may not take congestion into account. If you run a VPN terminating across a different cable, you prevent your traffic from hitting the congested cable.

          So rather than jam the trans-pacific link, you go via Asia/Europe - more hops and higher latency but far less congestion/packet loss, and therefore a better route.

          What we are actually talking about is reduced capacity on one link from a multi-link site, not a complete link loss on a stub network.

          1. Adam 1

            Re: yet another reason

            Firstly the


            To show the doubters out there, here are the first 7 hops with and without VPN (pia in this case) over tpg to . The exercise is left to the reader to work out how these are routed, but the participation of trunk links via Kenya and the involvement of Swiss ISPs should give you some hints.

            VPN off

            1.;; 2.069, 4.426, 4.576

            2.; 21.066, 23.260, 24.255

            3.;; 25.745, 28.481, 28.636

            4.;; 30.506, 33.322, 34.271

            5.;; 208.953, 212.432, 212.689

            6.;; 211.422

            6.;; 211.839

            6.;; 210.804

            7.;; 237.292

            7.;; 222.407

            7.;; 223.347

            VPN on

            1.; 21.241, 23.388, 24.962

            2. *

            3.; 326.402

            3.; 313.348

            3.; 314.520

            4.; 326.518

            4.; 317.522

            4.; 317.991

            5.;; 324.957, 337.009, 329.025

            6.;; 416.610

            6.;; 402.819

            6.;; 404.017

            7.;; 474.928

            7.;; 450.211

            7.;; 454.509

            So is this difference academic or are there real world implications? The answer of course is that it depends. For browsing it is pretty minor. Throughput is limited by my ADSL2 which is in about the worst possible place relative to the exchange. It is measurable but for the most part feels normal. I did a speedtest from a few places. The most noticeable difference was via Seoul where the VPN was nearly 100ms FASTER in the ping test than no VPN.

            This is hardly surprising given the detour that the packets are taking. Unless the packets between your home an the VPN endpoint are traversing via Guam, or the backbone of your VPN provider is carried via tpgs private cable, then a break in that said cable isn't going to affect you. Tpg have two choices here. They can route around the fault by using their other cables (as they did in the traceroute above) or they can buy additional capacity from their competing northbound fibre links. No doubt they will be doing both at different times but a lot of that capacity (on competing links) would have been bulk purchased so it isn't always available and unlikely to be cheap.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And your VPN is connected via cables made of magical unicorn horns?

        Must be an iVPN

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re: yet another reason

        @androgynous cowherd

        Hey, believing in magical unicorn ISP service is at least as plausible as believing that you will get good service from Comcast!!

        (Zing!! Possibly-gratuitous-but-probably-deserved swipe at Con-cast!)

      4. dotdan

        Re: yet another reason

        Tea stained monitor

    3. waldo kitty

      Re: yet another reason

      to use a VPN service.

      if you're on an island being fed by cables and they get cut, your VPN is no better than tits on a boar... why? because that VPN connection would likely be cut or have reduce bandwidth anyway just like the cable...

    4. Fibbles

      Re: yet another reason

      I really want to believe this is some top quality trolling. Please let it be trolling...

    5. NotBob

      Re: yet another reason

      I think he forgot to mention the foil hat. What better way to quietly add a tap than when everyone else is busy looking at an "accidental" cabld cut halfway down the line...

  2. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge


    Not by any means a telco specialist, so honest question:

    Has a multi-hop microwave link from the mainland ever been considered? Line of sight should work, IIRC - say, Southern tip of VIC, King Island, northern TAS.

    Even if just for backup purposes such as this.

    Are there technical/financial/environmental issues why this wouldn't work?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microwave?

      The broken bit here is Australia to Guam (the rest of the world).

      1. x 7

        Re: Microwave?

        Guam = "the rest of the world"????


        1. Dabooka

          Re: Microwave?

          Not really, I took it to mean "Guam, and then onto the rest of the world"?

          1. Fibbles

            Re: Microwave?

            "Guam, and then onto the rest of the world"

            Your plan for world domination has a really weird order of priority.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microwave?

      Interesting question - Are the two close enough for line of site?

      That being said, I imagine microwave links over water can have some interesting weather related problems.

    3. -tim

      Re: Microwave?

      Years ago I was looking at some calculations of the line of sight "hill" due to earth curvature between Victoria and Tasmania and it it was something on the order of 400 meters tall. With microwave, you also have to keep things out of the Fresnel zone as well. Undersea cable is about $10 per meter and you can put down cable cheaper than you can build tall towers in prime real estate which is considered environmentally sensitive. An old aviation chart shows that there is a 4,000 ft obstacle near Flinders island so I expect Telstra already has a microwave link going that way. I know when a betting shop opened up there about a decade ago, they had asked for 2 gigabit links and that was the entire capacity at the time.

      1. BasicChimpTheory

        Re: Microwave?


        In previous career, my crew (laying water and gas pipes under a very large and busy intersection) cut the SINGLE cable feeding all of the TABs in Tasmania.

        Also fed a great deal of private residences but these were not the telco clients that has us trembling...

    4. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Microwave?

      Theoretically it should work, basically radio waves. I would think the problem is bandwidth and speed.

    5. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Microwave?

      Microwave links need line of sight. Oceans are the reason we started building satellites...

      Also, microwave data links simply cannot carry as much data as a decent fibre optic cable. The bandwidth is not available. That's why microwave links have mostly gone out of fashion.

      They've come back into fashion a little bit in the USA. A financial institution in Chicago built a private microwave relay chain all the way to New York. Why? The latency on a microwave link is a lot lower than on a fibre (microwaves travel at c, light in a fibre travels at 0.6c). That matters if you're in the high speed share trading business. This link knocks approx 2milliseconds off the time taken to make a trade.

      1. Bob H

        Re: Microwave?

        Actually you can do tropo-scatter but it is really hard, really noisy and doesn't give nearly the capacity of LoS microwave.

    6. I.S.

      Re: Microwave?

      There have been microwave links from mainland Oz to Tassie since 1959. One was from Mt Oberon on Wilsons Prom, via Mt Tanner on King Island, to Waterhouse. The other was from Cape Otway, via Grassy on Flinders Island, to Cape Grim (Woolnorth). I think that they are no longer in use as Telstra has the Bass Strait 1 fibre cable operating since 1995 and Bass Strait 2 operating since 2003.

      Basslink is not the only comms link to Tassie.

  3. Joe Gurman

    Oh those pesky Russkies

    ....and all the attention they've been paying to submarine optical fiber cables lately. Bet someone tried attaching a faulty tap.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Oh those pesky Russkies


      1. x 7

        Re: Oh those pesky Russkies

        this is the NorKs not the Russkies

  4. Ole Juul

    Send help

    I guess it's time for us to mail some DVDs to our friends in .AU. They'll be crying out for the latest ISOs and movies.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Send help

      Also, tell the MAFIAA and cronies that movie piracy will be down Downunder for technical reasons they will never understand.

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Send help

      That's how we used to do it back in the Commodore 64 days... demo scene crews trading between here and Europe would snailmail floppies to each other via PO boxes!

  5. Ian Michael Gumby

    Jared Fogel strikes again!

    Too soon?

  6. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    NSA Balls up

    Have the NSA ballsed up hacking into another submarine cable? You'd have thought they'd have got the hang of it by now.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3,000 metres below the surface

    Damn you Bob Square Pants and the seahorse you rode in on!

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    Cable cut?

    Slow you say.

    How will we notice?

  9. John Savard

    Cape York

    Looking at a submarine cable map, I see that Australia still has a few other cables left. Also, there are one or more cables linking it to Papua New Guinea, which is closer to Asia. But what surprises me is that none of those cables enter the ocean from Cape York, which would allow them to be shorter.

    As Papua New Guinea is administered by Australia, it would seem that they're missing an opportunity to shorten the length of Australia's submarine cable links to the outside world; those links could go to PNG and then continue on from it to Australia.

    Also, I read an interesting report on the web that notes that New Zealand takes the protection of its submarine cables more seriously than Australia.

    1. Mayhem

      Re: Cape York

      Firstly, PNG is independent of Australia, has been since 1975.

      Secondly, the broken PPC1 cable in question that Australia uses to connect to Guam is also connected to PNG, via the Solomon Sea. Cables don't go overland in PNG - nothing does. It's bloody tough country, with over 4000m mountains in the middle.

      Most of the connections go via the Sunda Straight to Jakarta and Singapore, because that's the easiest and cheapest way to tap into the big asian pipelines, and has the least exposure to the really complicated and fairly shallow seafloor between Kalimantan and PNG which is full of volcanic activity.

      They are very vulnerable to a big bang from Krakatoa, but the costs of rebuilding are probably less than running new cables to Sri Lanka.

      Lastly, NZ has a *really* active plate boundary running along the east coast, which is why the Southern Cross is the only cable to be routed that way, and it runs up to Hawaii parallel to the boundary to avoid the trenches. Every other link goes via Australia and the Tasman Sea is geologically stable.

  10. TRT Silver badge

    Yeah, I Googled SeeMeWee...


  11. TRT Silver badge

    The icon accompanying this news article...

    Looks like XKCD porn.

  12. M7S

    Unobtrusive Repair Service

    I believe, but without knowing anything about the intricacies of U-boat special operations (where is Lewis when you need him?) that the Americans may have a publicly funded vessel suited to such work. Perhaps they'd help out an ally, although I accept this is a private commercial issue rather that a "state" problem, although the effects might be of national importance for things like the economy etc.

    If not, then a few lines from Not the Nine O'clock News song "All Out Superpower Confrontation" come unbidden to mind, apologies to anyone finding the connection a little obscure (including just about anyone under 45):

    Jimmy Carter must have known, That's why he stayed at home...

    Icon purely for the song

    1. x 7

      Re: Unobtrusive Repair Service

      " the Americans may have a publicly funded vessel suited to such work. "

      3km down is pushing it for any sub

      you'd need some kind of robot at that depth. Easier just to lift the cable

  13. WibbleMe

    Satalight service?

    Also anyone though of setting up a web cam to catch the pesky line cutters?

    1. JeffyPoooh

      WM "Satalight [satellite] service?"

      O3B can provide "fiber optic" class speeds (sort of) up to latitude 45° N or S.

      Last I read was that the ground station was a million dollars. Ideal for any African village...

  14. Stevie


    Why in Neptune's name are people connecting submarines to the internet with cables anyway?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would really love to see the repair job

    Are there any videos showing repair in action? How do you even repair cable at a depth of 3km?

    1. x 7

      Re: I would really love to see the repair job

      you don't repair at depth

      you cut the cable at two accessible locations, lifting the two landward "ends" to the surface, splice in new cable on the surface then let it drop

      problem is you can't put the repair into a trench: it just sits on the sea bed more vulnerable than before as originally it WOULD have been trenched

      1. JeffyPoooh

        Re: I would really love to see the repair job

        Do they bother trenching at depth?

        I've seen a few 'Mighty Ship' episodes and my recollection is that they don't bother trenching or ploughing once the water is a full one km deep.

        Perhaps I'm confused.

    2. x 7

      Re: I would really love to see the repair job

      how to repair submarine cables including animated videos

  16. JJKing

    Apart from squids with lasers, what the hell would cause a break/fault at that depth?

    1. x 7

      "what the hell would cause a break/fault at that depth?"

      the seabed isn't stable. All kinds of geological activity going on - rockfalls, earthquakes, volcanoes.

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