Vardah impact: ACT Fibernet says 60% of network up

R Dinakaran Chennai | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 29, 2016

The main reason for the disruption was that most of the electricity poles, on which the ACT cables ran, had collapsed. Photo: SR Raghunathan

Company hopes to restore 85% of the network by January 6

When Vardah pummelled Chennai, what went down along with the thousands of lamp posts and trees were the optical fibre-based internet networks. The one that took the maximum hit was ACT Fibernet - because of its sheer size of operations. Other internet providers such as Airtel and BSNL too were affected, but not to the extent of ACT as their cables were underground.

The headquarters of ACT is in Bangalore, but the top management, including the CEO Bala Malladi has been camping in Chennai since December 14 to oversee the restoration process. ACT had initially underestimated the work involved and once it realised the enormity of the task, the top management decided to pitch their tents in Chennai to ensure speedy restoration.

In an interview to BusinessLine, Malladi said ACT was replacing the entire network of cables - over 2,200 km - in the city. Over 800 personnel comprising technicians and officials were working round the clock. ACT has also brought in personnel from its other centres to speed up the restoration work. Till Wednesday, the company had replaced over 1,400 km of cables.

Malladi said 60 per cent of the network was up, and that 85 per cent would be up by January 6. ACT has also informed customers on the timeline through emails and messages. The remaining would take a little more time, he said, as it would only be the disruptions in the last mile connectivity to individual connections.

Contrary to the perception that the ACT cables ran on trees, he said the cables used poles after getting right of way permission from the government bodies concerned. The main reason for the disruption was that most of the poles, on which the ACT cables ran, had collapsed. A substantial part of ACT’s network backbone - the aggregation network and access network - were underground and this had helped matters a lot.

ACT had spread out their restoration workforce across the city as it found that concentrating the workforce to restore connectivity in a single area slowed things down. Malladi said there was a war room in operation in the city and status reports on the restoration were being collected every half an hour so that there is no lag in the process.

What was worsening the process - and also slowing it down - was repeated works by other utilities like the electricity board that inadvertently cut even freshly laid lines. But it was only in some pockets, he said. Most of the time, the electricity and civic authorities informed the company if they had to perform major repairs, and ACT was able to take preventive measures.

Malladi said the cost of restoration was over Rs 55 crore. He said ACT was one of the networks to be restored the fastest after the floods last year, but the cyclone Vardah, one of the most severe storms in history to hit Chennai, was testing ACT’s capabilities. “We understand the angst and inconvenience our customers are going through and we are doing everything that is possible to restore connectivity at the earliest,” Malladi said. ACT will be compensating customers for the days of service downtime as it had done previously during the floods, he said.

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Published on December 29, 2016
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