How Is the Internet Connected Under the Ocean

How is the Internet connected under the ocean.

Cable networks have brought the world together. The description gives some hint at how this technology works. Currently, 99% of the world’s transoceanic communications (between places separated by an ocean) are carried by undersea cables. Fiber optic cables can be used to transmit data such as voice, images, and messages.

Submarine Cables | How the Technology That Connects People and Continents Works

Video: How The Internet Travels Across Oceans

In Brazil, there are six submarine cables in operation. They are buried up to 1,000 meters deep in the ocean with a metallic pipeline lining. This prevents damage from shark attacks or fishing boats. In deeper regions, where the risk is lower, the cables are thinner.

The installation is done from a ship. First, however, a tool attached to the ship creates cracks in the earth on the ocean floor, where the cable will be deposited. The process is time-consuming: just wrapping the cable to put it on the ship can take three weeks.

Submarine cables can send data up to 1,000 times that of a satellite signal.

That means fiber optics can transmit the equivalent of what’s on 102 DVDs in one second. Satellites, on the other hand, can’t even send the contents of a DVD in the same amount of time. And still the signal has to travel a certain distance before it can be transferred to reach two locations. On top of that, satellites also have issues with latency, which is the time it takes for information to get to its destination.

Undersea cable map.
The undersea cable runs a distance of 9,000 km between Tokyo and Los Angeles. The same trip made by a satellite adds up to 72,000 km. Image: Reproduction / NEC

Marine Life

In 2014, for example, sharks attacked Google’s undersea cables. But can technology affect the ecosystem of these animals? With that question in mind, researchers at the University of California, United States, began studying the marine communities that live around undersea cables. In 2016, they found that the electromagnetic fields emitted by the technology had a minimal effect on the ecosystem.

There is a fear that all these power cables in the seafloor will somehow alter the behavior of marine organisms.

Estimates suggest that undersea cables require more than 50 repairs per year. Undersea cables break for a variety of reasons including shark attacks, earthquakes and deep water pressure.

Despite so many incidents, the biggest threat – about 60 percent of submarine cable cuts – comes from ship anchors and fishing nets. Other incidents have occurred over the years, and they haven’t even involved marine life. In 2006, an earthquake cut a cable and disrupted Internet access in Taiwan.

The following year, 100 tons of undersea cables connecting Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong were stolen. Thieves tried to sell them as scrap metal and the region was left without internet for several months.

If they survive that many events, undersea cables have a useful life of up to 25 years.

How is the Internet connected under the ocean.
Map shows the extent of undersea cables around the world. Image: Reproduction / TeleGeography

How They Came About

The first submarine cable appeared during the invention of the telegraph.

Cyrus West Field built the completed cable over a period of four years. It linked England to the United States. The first message was from Queen Victoria of Great Britain to US President James Buchanan. The short text included the phrase Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace, good will to men.

It took the message an hour and a half for it to arrive. It may seem like a long time, but it was much faster than a ship. The data crossed the ocean by the cable protected by a mixture of tarred hemp and Indian rubber.

Transmission was limited, allowing only two words per minute to be transmitted. The cable was shut down after a month of operation due to overloading of the power used to transmit messages.

Between 1866 and 1868, another transatlantic cable was built by the British. Beginning in the 1870s, the network was extended to the East, where there was a British colony in India. And the cables began to spread globally.

Current structure of submarine cables.
Current structure of submarine cables. The cable on the left is used in deep water. The other has enhanced protection against shark attacks, for example. Image: Reproduction / NEC

In the 1940s, with the onset of World War II, undersea cables were converted for telephony. The dominance was no longer with the British, but with American companies. It wasn’t until the 1980s that fiber optic technology arrived.

More Facts

But undersea cables are not only used to transmit messages. In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. surveillance agency monitors cables around the world. Snowden was a systems’ administrator at the NSA and published details of various programs that make up the U.S. surveillance system.

Brazil’s MONET cable to Europe was built without passing through the United States, ensuring its privacy.

Antarctica is the only continent that is not connected to undersea cables. Extremely low temperatures and the movement of ice shelves make it difficult to lay them.

In 1870, Bombay was linked to London by submarine cable, with a combined effort from four company.

The four companies were combined in 1872 to form the Eastern Telegraph Company, owned by John Pender.

Another sister company of Eastern Telegraph Company was the Eastern Extension, China and Australasia Telegraph Company. 

Australia was linked to Bombay in 1872 via Singapore and China, and New Zealand was linked to London in 1876.

What Is a Submarine Communications Cable?

A submarine communications cable is a telecommunications cable that is installed and mostly used in oceans. It transmits data across the waves and through the water in an attempt to connect people who are geographically and physically separated.

A submarine communications cable is a cable laid under the surface of the sea to send signals across the ocean.

Digital data, such as telephone and Internet traffic, is carried by modern cables using optical fiber technology. (Source:

How Are Internet Cables Laid in the Ocean?

There are more than 240,000 kilometers of fiber optic cable under the ocean that connect the ocean floor to the surface.

It is estimated that there is more than $8 trillion worth of subsea networks around the world. The vast majority of the cables are connected to submarine cable stations, which are located on the seabed.

Some cable stations are so large that they cover an entire ocean basin. The stations typically have multiple fiber optic strands or cables that converge on them.

How are Internet cables laid in the sea?

  • Laying the underwater cable first, and then burying it as a second step.
  • For greatest results, you should excavate a trench in the sea bed that will be filled by natural processes.
  • Then, let’s lay a line of flexible members, which will be stronger and less expensive than the concerned cable.

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