Oct 11, 2019

Hidden Internet

Most people are not aware that undersea cables carry over 99% of the internet and other electronic traffic between continents, with the small remainder provided by satellites.

The first transcontinental undersea cable was completed in 1858 to deliver telegraph messages between the US and England. As of 2019, there are over 400 active undersea fiber cables in place that stretch over 745,000 miles (1,198,961km). Cables are laid down using specially-modified ships that carry the submarine cable on board and slowly lay it out on the seabed. Undersea cables are designed for a 25-year life, and so cables are regularly being retired and replaced.
These cables are owned by countries, cable operators, and companies, such as Google, Facebook, etc. Huawei Marine Networks Co., majority owned by the Chinese telecom giant, recently completed a 3,750-mile cable between Brazil and Cameroon. It also recently started work on a 7,500-mile cable connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa in addition to finishing up links across the Gulf of California in Mexico.
There is an average of about 25 undersea fiber cuts per year, caused by earthquakes, underwater mudslides, ship anchors, and even a few from sharks. Repairs are made by ships that pull the cut ends of the fiber to the surface and splice them back together.

Incidentally, as an indicator of speed, 4.8 million HD movies could stream at the same time in high-definition through one strand, in one direction, of the 4,104 mile (6,600km) Marea cable from Spain to the United States. The cable is composed of an eight-pairs fiber-optic thread bundle, a bit larger than the size of a garden hose.

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