Mission Critical: Safeguarding Submarine Cable Networks

Safeguarding SEA's submarine cables is vital for connectivity, with efforts focused on mitigating natural and human threats.By Brian Lavallée, TNGlobal
April 11, 2024

With the rise of a new wave of digital transformation, Southeast Asia’s appetite for data is accelerating the growth of the region’s digital economy. We’re seeing this appetite manifest in multiple ways – for example, we’re seeing a surge in demand for data centers as tech giants expand their cloud services, and generative AI continues to fuel data and capacity requirements. Southeast Asia’s data center market is even expected to grow by 17 percent over the next five years compared to 12 percent for the rest of the world. This rising demand for data, together with continued digital transformation and rapid adoption of 5G, will continue to drive the region’s skyrocketing demand for quicker and more reliable internet.

To that end, network operators are investing in infrastructure to boost connectivity across the region. Perhaps unbeknownst to many, a big part of this infrastructure involves international submarine cables carrying telecommunications traffic between SEA and the rest of the world. Behind every email sent, every transaction made, and every phone call dialed is a multitude of submarine cables transmitting data at lightspeed. It’s hence no surprise that we are in the midst of a global cable construction boom that is projected to reach a record US$10 billion between 2023 and 2025, bringing with it an estimated 78 systems online measuring over 300,000 kilometers in length. This is a new level of growth not seen in over 20 years.

Our submarine cable network will only increase in scale and intricacy, as the world grows more and more connected. This makes submarine cables critical infrastructure that must be protected from external natural or man-made aggressions. But how exactly do these aggressions impact submarine cables, and what can we do to anticipate and safeguard disruptions?

Accidental human aggressions and natural disasters: The leading causes of cable faults and disruptions

Traditionally, accidents have been the cause of most submarine cable faults and outages. Most cable faults are caused by shipping vessels, such as cargo ships dragging anchors or fishing boats scouring the seabed with fishing nets. This is because both cargo shipping routes and telecom cable routes have traditionally had similar goals in mind – connecting population centers over the shortest paths to reduce both latency and costs.

Read more…