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How Undersea Cables will Shape Communication

Posted by Christine Balba | July 27, 2016

For more than a century, undersea cables have been an essential aspect of the infrastructure for the global product economy. These fiber-optic cables are laid on the seabed between land-based stations, carrying digital signals across stretches of ocean.


99 percent of international communications run on underwater cables. Currently, there are 293 in-service and 28 planned undersea cables; the only continent that isn’t wired into the internet is Antarctica.

Companies are betting on cables.

Amazon Web Services has purchased Hawaiki Submarine Cable to speed performance up to 30 Terabytes, and reduce latency of communication between Australia, New Zealand, and the US. The cable is expected to go live in June 2018.

The $300M “FASTER” project, forecast to be operational mid-2016, is a Google venture. The tech giant teamed up with five Asian telecom companies in order to better connect Asia and the US.

And recently, Facebook and Microsoft announced project “MAREA”, 4,000 miles of underwater cable that will run across the Atlantic ocean, transferring more data between US and Europe by connecting hubs in northern Virginia and Bilbao, Spain. Reports state that this will be the highest-capacity subsea cable ever placed across the Atlantic, with speeds of 160 Terabits per second.

What's the future of undersea cables?

According to a market research report by Global Industry Analysts, cumulative global installation of submarine optical fiber cable is projected to reach two million kilometers by 2018, up from just over a million kilometers in 2009. Submarine cable networks are expected to grow 29 percent between 2014-2016.

There are also experts planning to lay undersea fiber-optic cable to connect Asia and Europe by crossing the Arctic Circle. This is believed to be the shortest path connecting two continents, intended to reduce lag in transmissions between London and Tokyo.

The global market for cloud equipment is predicted to reach US $79.1 Billion by 2018, and data traffic will triple annually by 2017. Considering the estimated 1.7 billion people worldwide using cloud by 2017, it is obvious that the competition for telecommunication speed will heat up. Undersea cables will play a big role in improving the speed of data transfers across the world.

This is especially important to the future of global trade. As more and more products are sold online, and as suppliers and manufacturers move further away from each other, speed of communication will often prove to make or break critical supply disruptions. 


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