Understanding Underwater Fiber Optics

Submarine cables have an extremely important role in telecommunications and networking. The use of underwater cable networks to transmit data has been around for over 150 years, but the most recent modern innovations in the use of underwater fiber optics have facilitated remarkable advancements in global communications.

What Are Subsea Cables?

Subsea or submarine fiber optics have taken global communications to new heights. This technology facilitates the rapid transmission of massive volumes of data between two remote points.

Repeaters or amplifiers boost the strength of a connection across the length of a cable. The signal-boosting components in subsea cabling get their power supply from an electrical current running through the core of the cable housing that surrounds its optical fiber.

Why Are Underwater Fiber Optics So Important for Global Communications?

The internet as you know it is made up of more than just a massive network of servers. Its functionality depends wholly on the connections between servers and distribution centers. That’s where subsea cables come in. They’re the bedrock that facilitates and sustains network connectivity. According to the Information & Technology Innovation Foundation, subsea cabling drives approximately 99% of all international communications traffic.

Underwater fiber optics are also vital to the development and expansion of 5G cellular networking. When you think about where your cell phone’s signal comes from, you probably envision a big cell tower several stories high. However, the towers aren’t the origin of cell service. They merely broadcast it to a fixed geographic area. Before 5G connectivity reaches a tower, it may have to channel through miles of fiber optic cabling below the sea.

How Do Engineers and Contractors Install and Repair Subsea Cables? 

Securing cables in deep ocean waters is an extraordinarily challenging task. Fiber optic construction projects can take months or even years to complete

A lot of careful analysis and planning goes into determining the optimal placement for cabling. Engineers must consider numerous factors including the topography on the ocean floor and the presence of large coral formations. Also, they must take care to place cables a good distance away from major shipping routes. In high-traffic areas, cables are susceptible to damage from large cargo vessels as well as fishing vessels that trawl the ocean floor with weighted nets.

Prior to installing submarine cables, marine contractors typically excavate shallow trenches to house as much linear footage of cable as possible. When an installation is near coastal areas, it may be necessary to build concrete trenches to secure it. The cables themselves must have a high-grade insulating material that will fortify them against damage from sharp rocks or reefs surrounding a shoreline.

Mechanical failures and damage can require complex, costly repairs. Cabling ships must remove installations from the ocean floor and lift them  to the surface to carry out repairs in dry conditions.

What Are the Advantages of Using Fiber Optic Submarine Cables?

Oceanic fiber optic cables are capable of carrying massive data traffic across great distances without losing signal clarity. Unlike above-ground installations, inclement weather and electromagnetic interference do not affect connectivity.

Repairing above-ground cables is significantly more expensive and time-consuming than repairing submarine cables. However, underwater installations are much less vulnerable to damage, so they generally require fewer repairs.

Underwater cabling networks allow companies to route data through multiple cabling channels. If there is a mechanical failure through one channel, they can divert it to another and avoid service interruptions.

Who Installs Cables?

Originally, large telecommunications companies pooled their resources to fund the installation of underwater cable routes. In recent years, large tech companies have invested in data infrastructure development. Google and Meta need to be able to accommodate massive volumes of data, and submarine cables enable them to keep up with demand and make high-speed connectivity accessible to as many end-point users as possible.

In addition to content providers and cellular carriers, government agencies and research organizations also utilize this advanced communications technology. Subsea cabling technology equips them to transmit data securely and reliably.

Planning and executing the installation of submarine cables is a huge undertaking, so it is important to work with a professional fiber optic and engineering company that has experience designing customized solutions for their clients. Contact V1 Fiber to learn more about our team and services.

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