Japan's NTT aims to fix quake-hit undersea cables by May

Ships will take repair crews to seven damaged segments along four separate lines

Seven segments of undersea data and telephone transmission cables that were damaged in the March 11 earthquake off Japan should be repaired by early May, an arm of Japan's biggest telecom group said on Friday.

NTT Communications, operator of the nation's largest Internet service provider, will send ships to repair two damaged spots along its own Pacific Crossing-1 cable, one in the north and one in the west, said company spokeswoman Yasuko Oka.

The fiber-optic cable, usually dubbed PC-1, extends for 21,000 kilometers (13,049 miles). It reaches two sites on the U.S. west coast and two on Japan's east coast. The Japan landing north of Tokyo was near the epicenter of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

Repair crews will also fix four pieces of the 22,000-kilometer Japan-U.S. cable, one trouble spot on the 30,000-kilometer China-U.S. cable and two along the APCN2, a 19,000-kilometer line that links China, Taiwan, South Korea and much of Southeast Asia. All three are optical cables that can transmit voice and data, Oka said. The damaged segments of the cables, each of which is owned by an international consortium or carriers, are off Japan's east coast.

Although the company does not yet know the extent of damage -- the cables may be completely severed -- all segments should be fixed within a month, Oka said.

NTT Communications said on its website it had already started using backup cable routes to provide normal services and that it had seen no impact on overseas data communication or Internet services. A total of 20 cable systems land on the coast of Japan.

Natural disasters have damaged other cables in Asia in recent years. An earthquake in Taiwan snapped service for parts of two days in March last year after damaging four cables. In 2009 an earthquake in Taiwan and undersea landslides following a deadly typhoon cut cables off the island's southeast coast, disrupting Internet service in China.

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Ralph Jennings

IDG News Service
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