Rwandatel, we have a general problem

Last Sunday the Internet died in Rwanda. At least it did for Rwandatel subscribers. For four days, data trickled through at a senile snail’s pace. I all but gave up on email and ended up negotiating work via SMS. I didn’t attempt to blog or add many news items. Skype calls, podcasts… forget about it…

It appears Rwandatel’s 075 100 customer service line was disconnected throughout the downtime – all calls I made were abruptly cut off. The subsequent lack of information helped spread rumours that Rwandatel technical staff were all in China for training (no idea if this is true).

Businesses, ministries and embassies reportedly went into slowdown while other users simply switched providers. Today, the “general problem” (reportedly damage to the SEACOM undersea cable) appears to have been fixed.

Some interesting points about the slowdown:

  • I could access Gmail (all be it really, really slowly), using the Turbohide proxy server.
  • I could just receive email early in the morning on my iPhone connected to wifi, but I couldn’t reply.
  • Similarly, I could surf (slowly) using Opera 10 in Turbo mode, but only early in the morning.
  • Tweetdeck functioned, but tweets would take three or four attempts before sending successfully. And bizarrely, now we’re reconnected, Tweetdeck doesn’t work and Twitter is inaccessible. Both appear to be working normally now.
  • For extra bizarreness points, the rival MTN website was lightning quick throughout the whole outage. Hmmm…

Tigo and MTN customers do not appear to have been affected by the same problem. The New Times talked to Rwandatel (and some cafe operators who preferred anonymity at cafes the New Times names…) about the Internet outage.

Media reports have indicated that the breakdown occurred on April 14 after the SEACOM marine submarine cable was damaged by a ship but repairs did not commence until April 25 and are scheduled to go on to until, Friday, April 30, 2010. link

Meanwhile, there were some interesting tips and advice about Internet and mobile providers on the Kigali Life email discussion forum. I’ll add the pertinent parts to this post as and when I get permission from the authors.

I hope the apparent reconnection I noticed this morning is stable and permanent. Not sure I’m quite ready for what would be the sixth house visit in eight months from a five man strong Rwandatel technical support team.

Photograph taken from the Kigali Wire Flickr account and from @kigaliwire on Twitter.

Comments are closed.