How Do Subsea Cables in Frozen Regions Work?

Rachel Justis discusses how laying submarine cable in frozen regions is less challenging than protecting them from damage once placedBy Rachel Justis
July 26, 2021

Subsea cables have been around for over 150 years as a technological means of communication across the globe. In their initial form, they were used for sending telegrams. Nowadays, they serve as connective transmitters for telecommunications. They are noted as crucial components for the modern economic market, because they are more reliable, have more capacity than satellites, and are responsible for transmitting 95% of all international data across continents.

Because they are often found thousands of meters deep into the water, one might wonder how they are placed and remain operational in frozen regions. We break that down here:

The Technology Behind Subsea Cables

Subsea cables work using fiber optic technology, which supports a higher bandwidth. In terms of data transmission, this means that subsea cables have less delay and can transfer terabytes of data at a time frame that satellites would only transfer megabytes. Developing technology has helped increase the efficiency of data transmission across new and future sea cables, thanks to innovations like optical amplifiers. These are complex components developed with 3D parts in a footprint library, which allows engineers to solve difficult design challenges when it comes to inaccurate data and layer-by-layer construction. This has greatly helped improve amplifiers over the years, allowing them to not only transmit data faster but also have a more durable build that can withstand the environment.

Challenges in Frozen Regions

Naturally, cables are prone to damage from external force and erosion over time. This is increased by the presence of water all around, earthquakes, human exploration, and deep-sea creatures hitting the cabling. The temperature of water actually doesn’t prevent subsea cables from being placed, but extreme cold makes them more prone to crack. The problem for particularly frozen areas is that engineers have to create a longer pathway to work around the less penetrable areas. This proves a more expensive excursion and also means a longer route for communications.

The bigger challenge is between major project heads, more so than a practical issue. As of late, the Arctic Connect project, which was meant to construct networks that link Europe to Asia, was put on hold because of stalled negotiations between partners.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 119 of the SubTel Forum Magazine on page 29 or on our archive site here.