A week after subsea cable damage, startups and remote workers seek normalcy

“Ugh, this internet is killing my deadlines!” muttered Aisha, a Lagos-based web developer, as she stared at her screen. 

It was supposed to be a productive morning finalising a crucial project for a client, but the recent internet disruptions in Nigeria had thrown her entire schedule into disarray. Frustrated, Aisha glanced at her phone, the meagre 1Mbps speed a stark reminder of the nationwide struggle.

Aisha is not alone. Across the country, Nigerians are experiencing severe internet disruption after major cuts to the subsea cable of Nigeria’s major internet service provider, MainOne. Businesses are struggling to complete essential banking transactions, remote workers like Aisha are scrambling for alternative internet solutions, and startups are facing lost revenue and project delays.

“We saw almost a 50% drop in the number of customer sign-ups and customer activities during the period,” Adedeji Olowe, CEO of LendSqr, told  TechCabal. 

For Babatunde Akin-Moses, CEO of Sycamore, a peer-to-peer lending platform, the latest internet outage has made it difficult to disburse loans. Banks reliant on Microsoft Azure for critical services faced delays in disbursing loans, as the cloud platform was also affected. Similarly, borrowers were unable to make repayments due to failed debit transactions initiated by the banks.

Other founders who spoke to TechCabal claim that the internet outages have led to project delays and have affected both internal and external communications. 

“We identified tasks that can be completed offline and focused on them, allowing for some level of continued productivity,” Dennis Mary, CEO and founder of Yuki, a web3 startup, told TechCabal.

“I was unable to access the LMS platform for my company’s training,” said Ire, a growth marketer who had tried completing an online course. 

A return to normalcy?

Per Bloomberg, the broken subsea cable is expected to take weeks or months to fix. Ghana’s communication regulator also estimates that repairs would take at least five weeks to complete. 

However, MTN, which holds the largest market share of Nigeria’s telecom market and is the most affected by the outages, has been proactive in taming the outage. The mobile network provider said it is teaming up with ACE and the West Africa undersea cable systems (WACS) to send a dedicated vessel to repair the affected cables. Since then,  TechCabal can confirm that its network service has slightly improved. 

In a message to its customers on Monday, MTN said that it was working towards full restoration of its services. “Please accept our heartfelt apologies for glitches you may still be experiencing with a few services and be assured that work is ongoing towards full restoration,” MTN’s text to its customers read.

While the MTN network has been severely affected, people who spoke to TechCabal said that network reception on Glo—which runs a different submarine cable along the west coast of Africa between Nigeria and the UK—and Airtel have been okay. Several others have explored alternative internet service providers like Tizeti, FiberOne, and Elon Musk’s satellite-based Starlink to hedge against the bad network. 

“I have tried using VPN, but the result was the same, I just had to go to a coworking space,” Shadrach, a web developer told TechCabal.

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