Internet and voice for international calls have been restored in The Gambia amid a major outage affecting financial institutions and service providers, Information Minister Ebrima Sillah told Freedom radio in an interview on Tuesday. The outage lasted for hours, leaving social media users and disaporan Gambians in complete blackout. “Indeed, the internet was down today for the most part of the day, today, because we had a major problem on our main ACE cable, which is the Africa cross to Europe cable, that is the main submarine cable, that the country is connected to the outside world was cut by ocean going, which had a strong fault. Basically, there were two issues with that, we had to bring in the engineer from outside of the country to fix these cuts. So, while that was going on, we were riding on our backup connection on the cross-country cable with Sonatel, they connected us from the Jullolu in Casamance end towards Brikama, that one also had a big problem and as a result the country was out of internet and voice for international call. So, that basically was responsible for the outage today,” Sillah remarked.
A similar outage hits the tiny West African nation this past week. The downtime was greeted with public outrage. Four hours later the internet was restored back.
The outage was caused by an Indian company that was contracted by the country’s main power company, the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC).
The OIC road construction project has begun, and the NAWEC Contractor was said to have destroyed the cable without informing Gamtel, thereby causing the outage.
“The Indian company contracted by NAWEC to beef up its water facility and they were digging pipes, unfortunately while they were digging the pipe, they cut the main cable in Busumbala, on the way to Brikama, that link up with the all the network service providers. When they did the cut, they did not inform Gamtel, they just buried the cable out there and they left,” Sillah told me on the line to Banjul.
“It took us four hours to restore service. That was an internal problem, which outside the control of Gamtel, because the cut was caused by the contracting company of NAWEC,” he added.
When asked as to whether the Indian company was cited for damaging the Gamtel cable, Sillah Gamtel has written to NAWEC to foot for the loss of revenue incurred during the outage.
“The GSM companies are putting together the loss of revenue cost as a result of that outage. NAWEC was clearly written to, that they should expect some bills from Gamtel, because anytime there is an internet outage, the cost may actually come on Gamtel, being the main service provider to all operators,” Sillah said.
Further quizzed whether the last week internet outage was sabotage, Sillah in response said: “I don’t think it was sabotage, I think it was accidental, but it was an avoidable accidental thing because this was the third time they have been doing it, and the way the Gamtel cables are laid, these are laid deep, deep under the ground, when you dig for certain meters, you will see a warning light which is green, wherever you see that, it would indicate that, you should know the cable is there, if you dig beyond that green layer, you will see another layer which is red.”
Sillah has apologized to the Gamtel customers for the unfortunate outage. He said the issue has been resolved.
“We are extremely very sorry about what happened today and also last week. Really, this has cause a lot of financial burden on the financial institutions of the general public and also on service providers. Today, in The Gambia, almost everybody depends on IT services in one way or the other. If you don’t use IT services for internet or social media, you also use them for financial transactions,” Sillah said.