Web Maps Share Detailed Submarine Cable Data

Esri highlights the SubTel Cable Map discussing the challenges faced with creating an online submarine cable map and ArcGIS solutions.By Esri
October 29, 2019

SubTel Forum is a media company located in the United States that serves hundreds of thousands of readers in over 100 countries. SubTel Forum publishes an independent commercial e-magazine, SubTel Forum, and complimentary digital and print publications that discuss the submarine telecommunications cable industry. SubTel Forum's operating divisions provide data-driven business intelligence services (STF Analytics) and organize and manage conferences (STF Events).


Ninety-eight percent of the world's internet runs on submarine fiber-optic cables, yet as an industry, we have not had a suitable, freely available mapping tool for our hundreds of subsea systems. SubTel Forum needed a mapping system that could incorporate years of various disparate submarine cable data and be easily used by industry personnel throughout the world.

The Submarine Cable Database enables analysis for the Submarine Cable Almanac, Cable Map, Industry Tender Package, and Industry Newsfeed. The Submarine Cable Database was developed in 2013 and modified with real-time data thereafter. It tracks more than 400 current and planned domestic and international cable systems, including project information suitable for querying filtered by client, year, project, region, system length, capacity, landing points, data centers, owners, and installers. The purpose-built Submarine Cable Database was developed by a dedicated database administration team and is powered by SQL and retained in a Microsoft Azure platform environment. Maps are produced with ArcGIS Pro, in the same format and visual style as SubTel Forum's annually printed Submarine Cables of the World Interactive Map.

Data is collected from the public domain, and the database is the most accurate, comprehensive, and centralized source of information in the industry. At present, the Submarine Cable Database is chronicling the work of 18 financiers, 477 cable owners, 22 system suppliers, 12 upgraders, 15 system surveyors, and 25 system installers. In addition, it manages data for more than 450 projects across seven regions and more than 700 landing points. Capacity pricing data collection and analysis are included in this effort.


SubTel Forum's Submarine Cables of the World Interactive Map was built with Esri ArcGIS platform and linked to the STF Analytics Submarine Cable Database. Systems are also linked to SubTel Forum News Now Feed, allowing users to view current and archived news details.

Through the implementation of a freely available, manipulatable mapping tool, the considerable data locked within the complex of a research database is now accessible. The tools incorporated through the Esri platform have given new life to the data collected by the analysts of STF Analytics—moreover, the submarine cabling industry now has a reference tool with detail unlike that of any other tool available.


The specific challenge presented with taking a complex database into a GIS platform was two-fold, a protocol for data validation of existing datasets was needed, followed by a protocol for future data collection and maintenance. SubTel Forum employed an employee managed crowd sourcing effort for data collection – all system information was derived from the public realm by a dedicated analyst as well as freely accepted from update recommendations. Users of the Map can offer suggestions and recommendations for edits through a simple email prompt, but the Analyst must exercise scrutiny in validating the edits. Esri products gave new life to the data collected by the analysts of STF Analytics, and moreover, provided the submarine cabling industry a reference and mapping tool with detail unlike any other available.

Esri ArcGIS has allowed us to develop way beyond what had been only a simple database to having a fully functional, easily interactive visual mapping and database tool used by anyone throughout the international submarine cable industry.

—Wayne Nielsen, Publisher, Submarine Telecoms Forum

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