Re-Imagineering Telecom Subsea Systems

Clifford HollidayBy Clifford Holliday
January 19, 2020

Subsea Cable technology has developed since its inception in the 1850s through several changes to its current form today. It first morphed from copper to coax and then to fiber, where it has been for several years. Now a new kind of the traditional fiber approach is beginning that replaces the current architecture – a re-imagineered future! The result is a future architecture, based on ‘Super Cables’ that offer much higher capacity and almost endless flexibility.

The subject of submarine cables is fascinating, in that it is probably the oldest communications technology that still represents a significant portion of today’s Internet. Submarine cable technology saw its first application before the Civil War; it was the primary target of attack in WW I, when the Royal Navy cut Germany’s telegraph and voice sea cables. Now it is the essential network system for international traffic, yet it doesn’t seem to get much attention.

Although it started first (by decades), subsea cable architecture developed mostly independently from terrestrial-based networks and, to some extent, somewhat slower. Maybe because, historically, the terrestrial market was much more extensive and growing faster, more was spent on development in that area. Twenty-five years ago, land networks began to go to DWDM and a little more recently to ROADMs and mesh configurations. Subsea systems were much slower to adopt these new and very expansive technologies.

Now there is a quiet revolution going on that is little seen and almost entirely unknown. Even though this world is hidden and unseen, it is vitally important to all of us. It is the world of undersea cables that have come to make daily life, as we now know it, possible. These cables connect the continents of the world and carry 95% of all international communications. In the last ten years, the total amount of this traffic has been dramatically increasing. It is now the second largest of all traffic classes in the USA and the fastest growing. In addition to this increase in volume, the fundamental nature of the traffic carried on these cables has changed. These changes in amount and kind are leading to the requirements for Super Cables and Re-Imagineered Subsea Systems.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 110 of the SubTel Forum magazine here on page 18.