The modern world is heavily reliant on advanced communication technology, a feat made possible by the development of the first transatlantic submarine cables in 1858. This particular cable aimed to unite Newfoundland and Ireland and paved the way for communication between the United States and Ireland, allowing Queen Victoria to send a congratulatory message to President James Buchanan. Regrettably, the transmission signal deteriorated rapidly, rendering the cable functional for only three weeks.
Fast forward 165 years later, and the Cable Landing Station arrived in Barcelona last October, stretching an unprecedented 45,000 kilometers, making it the world’s longest submarine cable to date. This submarine cable serves as a critical link for companies and service providers in Spain, providing international connectivity.
5 curious facts about submarine cables
- They are not indestructible. A submarine cable has an average life time of about 25 years if it is kept in optimal conditions. From there, their maintenance is increasingly delicate and their state depends a lot on natural conditions since, ultimately, they are submerged in the depths of the ocean and it is impossible to control the natural force
- How are they repaired? It must be taken into account that the bottom of the sea is not a completely safe place and these cables are exposed to geographical accidents, animal attacks, hits by ship anchors, etc. First of all, let’s clarify that there is no human risk in this procedure. There are ships located at strategic points in the sea where there is a greater concentration of submarine cables so that, when a failure is detected in any of them, the ship moves to the specific coordinates and thanks to a robot it is carried out. carry out the repair of the affected cable. The cable is raised to the surface and after solving the problem, it is submerged again
- What size are they? Although thinking about submarine cables that carry millions of data and connect continents makes us believe that it is a gigantic infrastructure, the truth is that nothing is further from reality. Submarine cables are made up of bundles of optical fibers that normally have the diameter of a hair. What does mean a greater volume is the protection of these since they need several layers of resistant materials such as polyethylene, copper and even waterproof aluminum barriers. Still, with the added layers of protection, these cables typically do not exceed the size of a garden hose or human arm. But, it should be mentioned that the parts of the submarine cables that are closest to the coasts usually have a greater protection coating so that they are more protected.
- Advantages over satellites. Fiber optics are much faster and generate much lower latency in sending data than connections made via satellite. In addition, they are not exposed to solar storms, which usually cause problematic communications interference, and at the same time, they are less vulnerable to hacking.
- How many there are?. In total, there are more than 400 submarine cables that are deployed in the depths of the planet. In Spain we currently have 28 submarine cables. In 2021 a new extension of 2Africa was announced and it will connect the Canary Islands with the Peninsula. There are cables of all kinds of lengths, some very short, such as the 130 km link between Ireland and the United Kingdom, or the 28,000 km link between Japan and the United Kingdom.