PUBLISHER OF SUBSEA CABLE NEWS USES ARCGIS FOR INDUSTRY ANALYSIS AND INTERACTIVE MAP PRODUCTION

How SubTel Forum utilizes Esri's ArcGis and Storymap functions to bring the industry live and up to date submarine cable data. By Jim Baumann
January 22, 2021
Republished with kind permission by Esri

The first transatlantic telegraph cable went live in 1858. Using Morse code, messages were transmitted at a speed of roughly 2 minutes per character. During the succeeding years, hundreds of submarine cables were laid that now range more than 750,000 miles (1.2 million km) around the globe.

In the 1980s, submarine cable systems using optical fiber were developed and today they form the backbone of the internet because of their capability for high speed transmission. The MAREA cable, completed in 2017, stretches between Spain and the United States. It is currently the highest-capacity submarine cable in the world and is capable of transmitting data at 208 terabits per second.

Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc. (STF) was founded in 2001. It publishes various journals and reports about the submarine cable industry. “STF is the news and research analysis outlet for the submarine fiber communications industry,” says Kieran Clark, Lead Analyst for Submarine Telecoms Forum, Inc. “We track the laying of new submarine telecommunications cable and analyze its impact on the industry in general. We are not affiliated with any suppliers, installers, or vendors. We are a neutral third party that provides an unbiased overview of the industry.”

STF has used Esri software for a number of years. They originally used ArcMap to create the maps that appear in their print publications.

“I am not a GIS analyst by trade and ArcMap was always a daunting piece of software for me to use,” says Clark. “However, ArcGIS Pro has made the capabilities of GIS much more accessible. We can do more data analysis and we are making use of web apps and the operational dashboards.”

Interactive Map Depicts Real-Time Status of Global Subsea Cable Networks

Though 98 percent of the world’s internet runs on subsea cables, until STF began publishing their ArcGIS-based Submarine Cables of the World Interactive Map, the industry did not have access to a comprehensive map depicting this important information. STF uses a managed crowdsourcing effort for collecting data used in the map—all information and update recommendations are derived from the public domain by a company analyst.

“We draw new cable and their landing points for the map in ArcGIS Pro and then connect it to our submarine cable database, which has details on all of the major submarine cables in the world,” says Clark. “We currently have over 500 submarine cables that we track and have data on. So, we match that data to the lines representing the cables on the map so that when you click on the line, data about the cable can be accessed—who installed it, who built it, how much it costs, its capacity—that sort of thing. In addition, every 6 hours we pull the locations of all of the cable laying ships around the world from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) ship tracking service. So, at the moment we are updating the real-time locations of 46 cable ships. We use some automated scripts via ArcPython to automatically update the map on a regular basis and we have developed an Operations Dashboard around our map so that users can view and filter different data sets with just a few clicks.”

Interactive Map Depicts Real-Time Status of Global Subsea Cable Networks

Though 98 percent of the world’s internet runs on subsea cables, until STF began publishing their ArcGIS-based Submarine Cables of the World Interactive Map, the industry did not have access to a comprehensive map depicting this important information. STF uses a managed crowdsourcing effort for collecting data used in the map—all information and update recommendations are derived from the public domain by a company analyst.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 116 of the SubTel Forum Magazine on page 36 or on our archive site here.