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What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

While 99 percent of all international communication flows through submarine cables, few people can visualize how this unique underworld appears. Currently, there are 263 cables, with 22 soon to be added, connecting New York, Singapore, Auckland, Cape Town, Paris and everything between. International telecommunications market research firm TeleGeography recently released information about these cables.

It may be surprising to some, but compared to satellite technology, laying thousands of miles of fiber optic cable along the ocean floor is significantly cheaper. Another added bonus is that the size of transmittable data packets is significantly larger with submarine cables. Yet, an advantage of satellites over submarine cables is that satellites can reach far corners of the globe that aren’t yet run with cables. Aiming to overcome this limitation, many underdeveloped nations are investing in fiber optics to build out their networks.

“In the past year, many cables were being built to the east coast of Africa, where it was all satellite,” Alan Mauldin, TeleGeography’s research director, said on CNN. “We’re seeing cables to remote islands like Tonga and Vanuatu, bringing extremely small conurbations into the fiber network around the world.”

Investing in submarine cables is not limited to just developing nations. Many first world countries that are already well connected are laying new fiber optic routes to protect and strengthen their systems against earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides and manmade dangers.

When telecom companies began laying submarine cables in the early 2000s, they could cost as high as $2 billion to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily, price has dropped significantly, and most transatlantic routes now cost in the hundreds-of-millions.

“Length adds to the cost, and complication of the system,” Jon Hjembo, a senior analyst at TeleGeography, said. “Point-to-point is more cost effective than [lines] that branch to multiple landing stations in different countries.”

GeoTel Communications specializes in mapping telecommunications infrastructure with GIS data to produce telecom maps. Our maps of submarine cables, landings and systems, provide information on where the link originates and terminates. If you are looking to invest in the fiber optic business, GeoTel’s submarine cable landings, fiber maps, and broadband maps can be utilized to analyze existing infrastructure and help build out new own fiber optic networks. If you are interested in obtaining telecom GIS data sets, contact GeoTel Communications at (800) 277-2172.

Valerie Stephen