Submarine cables tie the world together

Submarine cables tie the world together

Summary: A large part of global communications depends on vast networks of undersea cables, which have been around for about 150 years

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TOPICS: Networking
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  • Submarine cable 1906 workers

    Workers (above) in 1906 tend to the cable at Porthcurno beach.

    With the completion of the telegraph line to Bombay in 1870 — which was also laid by the SS Great Eastern — Porthcurno became the epicentre of international communications. For almost 100 years, it was home to one of the world's largest telegraph stations and a training college.

    The telegraph station today has been preserved as part of the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.

    Photo credit: Cable & Wireless Worldwide

  • Ship recovers submarine cable

    Workers lay a modern-day cable (above).

    There are now around 250 submarine systems in operation, with another 19 due to come online in 2011.

    The technology has evolved significantly since the cables of the 19th century. In 1870, the telegraph system could transmit around 10 words a minute. Today, fibre submarine cables can handle 8.4 billion words a second.

    Photo credit: Cable & Wireless Worldwide

  • Submarine cable reeled in to ship

    In other respects, the science of laying submarine cables has barely changed from the early days.

    The method of recovering cables for repairs is essentially the same — it consists of using a grappling hook on the end of a rope up to five miles long.

    According to Cable & Wireless Worldwide — the company that has inherited much of the world's submarine infrastructure — the rope used today is often more expensive than the cable it recovers.

    Photo credit: Cable & Wireless Worldwide

Topic: Networking

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