3 Facts About the Internet’s Undersea Cables

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Over the past 2 centuries, a web of sea cables has spread underneath the world’s oceans. These cables have advanced along with technology, to allow for greater durability as well as data transmission speeds. Take a look at 3 facts about the infrastructure we all rely so heavily on!

1. Installing of undersea cables is a long, tedious and costly process

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These wires that are the backbone of our Internet today, are also called submarine communication cables. They are laid deep beneath the ocean floor, at times going 8000 metres below sea level! Thats almost as tall as Mount Everest! Cables are best laid on a flat ocean bed. Specialised boats called cable-layers are used to install these cables with consideration taken for corals, fish beds and or sunken ships. Cable installation charges typically depend on total distance laid across and depth of the cables laid. It is a big project normally taken up by a few huge corporations who share the cost, which runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars!

2. Sharks love the taste of undersea cables

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We’re not exactly sure why, but theres something about undersea cables that sharks just love! In 1987, the New York Times reported that “Sharks had shown an inexplicable taste for the new fibre-optic cables”. Today’s cables laid have adapted to these toothy-sea creatures with a kevlar-like protection layer to defend against these biters!

3. The Internet is vulnerable

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Would you believe me if I told you, you can cripple the world’s internet with just scuba gear and a pair of wire cutters? Well, it is possible. About 3 years ago, three men did just that – intentionally cutting up cables that ran through South-East-Asia-Middle-East-West-Europe 4, crippling internet services in Egypt by causing congestions and significant interruptions. These men were arrested by coastguards off Alexandria. Although these cables are not easy to cut through, it has been proven possible. People aside, the internet is ever at risk of being disrupted even by natural disasters such as tsunamis or earthquakes. 

Till date, there are nearly 350 cables laid below the Earth! In the 1800s, data transmission was very limited by size of message as well as speed of transmission. A 500-letter message took nearly 18 hours to transmit across the Atlantic! Today, thankfully we see much greater speeds as well as the ability to transmit much larger data packets. Today’s laid cables which are the backbone of the internet, are built to last 25 years.

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