Earthquake knocks out Asian communications

Undersea cable has been broken by a quake which reached 7.1 on the Richter scale

Communications services across Asia have been disrupted by a powerful earthquake which struck the region on Tuesday evening, killing two people.

The earthquake, which measured 7.1 on the Richter scale, occurred off the southern coastline of Taiwan on Tuesday night. As well as shaking buildings across Taiwan, the quake damaged a major underwater communications link called the Asia Pacific cable network 2 submarine cable (APCN2).

APCN2 is a ring that connects China, Hong Kong, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Taiwan. It is linked to Europe and the US by other ultra high-speed connections.

Several telecommunications companies across Asia have reported that their connectivity has been badly disrupted by the damage caused to APCN2. According to reports, Internet access slowed to a crawl in some parts of Asia after the earthquake.

A spokesperson at Singaporean ISP StarHub told ZDNet Asia that the damage resulted in "slower Internet access" for its customers. "Since yesterday, we have started re-routing the affected traffic to other undersea cables," he said. "Our engineers have been working round-the-clock and are doing their best to rectify the matter as soon as possible."

Data from the Internet Traffic Report showed that internet packet loss and response time in Asia rose sharply late on Tuesday, both indicating a significant drop in performance. 

Image of Asia Internet traffic

Malaysia's TMNet said in a statement that its internet service is "currently experiencing a degradation in performance caused by several outages at some of the international links." It is attempting to route traffic through alternative routes.

South Korea's KT Corp told Reuters that 27 of its customers had lost their web connection. Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan's largest phone company, told the Associated Press that two undersea cables off the Taiwanese coast had been damaged.

Web sites for several major Asian companies and media outlets could not be accessed from the UK on Wednesday afternoon.

The disruption is likely to have affected multinational companies with operations in Asia.

Although the Internet's huge network of routers and cables gives it considerable built-in resiliency, damage to certain key elements such as the high-bandwidth connections between continents can still cause significant damage. In November 2003, a major failure in an undersea cable linking America and Europe caused widespread disruption to Internet services in the UK.

ZDNet Asia's Eileen Yu contributed to this report.