VERI Cables Takes You Through the History of the Birth and Development of Undersea Fiber Optic Cables

Undersea fiber optic cables are the backbone of global telecommunications, enabling high-speed internet and data transmission across continents. These cables, laid on the ocean floor, have revolutionized the way we communicate, share information, and conduct business. This essay VERI Cable delves into the classification, applications, and significance of submarine fiber optic cables, exploring their technological aspects, historical development, and prospects.

Submarine cable work
Submarine cable work


Classification of Underwater Fiber Optic Cables

Submarine fiber optic cables can be classified based on various criteria such as the type of fiber, cable structure, and the deployment environment.


1. Type of Fiber

Single-mode fibers (SMF): These fibers have a small core diameter, typically around 8-10 micrometers, and support a single light mode. They are used for long-distance communication due to their low signal attenuation and high bandwidth capabilities.

Multi-mode fibers (MMF): With a larger core diameter (50-62.5 micrometers), these fibers support multiple light modes. They are generally used for shorter distances due to higher attenuation and dispersion rates compared to single-mode fibers.


2. Cable Structure

Lightweight Cables: Designed for shallow waters, these cables are easier to deploy and maintain. They typically have fewer protective layers.

Armored Power Cables: Used in deep-sea environments, armored cables have additional protective layers to withstand harsh underwater conditions, including pressure, temperature fluctuations, and potential damage from marine life or human activities.

Repeatered Cables: Equipped with repeaters or amplifiers at intervals, these cables boost signal strength, making them suitable for long-distance transmissions over thousands of kilometers.

Unrepeatered Cables: These are used for shorter distances where the signal can travel without significant degradation, eliminating the need for in-line amplification.


Structure of opgw fiber optic cable manufactured by ZMS cable


3. Deployment Environment

Shallow-Water Cables: These are deployed in coastal areas and continental shelves, where they are more susceptible to damage from anchors, fishing activities, and natural disasters.

Deep-Sea Cables: Laid in the deep ocean, these cables are less prone to physical damage but require specialized ships and technology for installation and maintenance due to the challenging environment.


Historical Development

The concept of submarine communication cables dates back to the mid-19th century, with the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable laid in 1858. This marked the beginning of a new era in global communication, drastically reducing the time required to transmit messages between continents.

The transition from telegraph to telephone cables occurred in the early 20th century, with the introduction of coaxial cables in the 1950s, enabling voice communication. However, it was the advent of fiber optic technology in the late 20th century that truly revolutionized submarine communications. The first transatlantic fiber optic cable, TAT-8, was laid in 1988, boasting significantly higher capacity and reliability than its predecessors.


Applications of Submarine Fiber Optic Cables

Submarine fiber optic cables are critical to a wide range of applications, impacting various sectors of society and the global economy.

1. Telecommunications

The primary application of submarine fiber optic cables is in telecommunications. These cables form the backbone of the global internet infrastructure, carrying over 99% of international data traffic. They enable high-speed internet access, voice communication, and data services, facilitating seamless connectivity across the globe.

2. Cloud Computing and Data Centers

With the proliferation of cloud computing, submarine power cables are essential for connecting data centers spread across different continents. They ensure fast and reliable data transfer, enabling services like online storage, data processing, and cloud-based applications. Major tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and Amazon, invest heavily in underwater cable projects to enhance their global network infrastructure.

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fiber optic cable supplier and wholesaler

3. Financial Services

The financial sector relies on submarine cables for high-frequency trading, real-time data analysis, and international transactions. The low latency and high-speed data transfer capabilities of these cables are crucial for maintaining competitive advantage in the global financial markets.

4. Scientific Research and Academia

Submarine fiber optic cables support scientific research by facilitating data exchange between research institutions worldwide. They are used in projects such as oceanographic studies, climate monitoring, and geophysical surveys, where large volumes of data need to be transmitted and analyzed.

5. Defense and Security

Governments and defense organizations use submarine cables for secure and reliable communication. These cables support military operations, intelligence gathering, and diplomatic communications, ensuring that critical information is transmitted securely across the globe.


Technological Aspects

Submarine fiber optic cables are composed of several layers designed to protect the fragile optical fibers from the harsh underwater environment.

1. Core and Cladding

The core, typically made of pure silica, is the medium through which light signals travel. The cladding, a layer of glass with a lower refractive index, surrounds the core and keeps the light signals contained within the core through total internal reflection.

2. Buffer Coating

A protective layer of plastic or acrylic, the buffer coating shields the fiber from physical damage and environmental factors such as moisture and chemicals.

3. Strength Members

To provide tensile strength and protect the cable during laying and recovery operations, strength members made of steel wires or aramid yarn are included.

4. Armoring

For cables deployed in shallow or hazardous areas, multiple layers of steel wires are added for extra protection against physical damage from fishing trawls, anchors, and marine life.

5. Outer Jacket

The outermost layer, typically made of polyethylene, protects the cable from abrasion and environmental damage.


Challenges and Maintenance

Deploying and maintaining submarine fiber optic cables pose several challenges due to the complex underwater environment.

1. Installation

Laying submarine cables requires specialized ships equipped with cable laying and burying equipment. The process involves careful planning to avoid underwater obstacles and ensure the cable’s stability on the ocean floor. The route must be surveyed and mapped, considering factors such as water depth, seabed composition, and potential hazards.

2. Maintenance and Repair

Cables can be damaged by natural events like earthquakes and underwater landslides, as well as human activities like fishing and anchoring. Repairing a submarine cable is a complex and costly process involving locating the fault, retrieving the cable, and performing the repair on a specialized ship.

3. Security Concerns

Submarine cables are vulnerable to deliberate attacks and espionage. Ensuring the security of these cables is critical, as any disruption can have significant economic and political consequences. International collaborations and agreements are essential for protecting this vital infrastructure.

FTTH Fiber Optic Cable

Future Prospects

The demand for higher bandwidth and faster internet speeds continues to grow, driving advancements in submarine cable technology. Innovations such as space-division multiplexing (SDM) and advanced signal-processing techniques aim to increase the capacity and efficiency of these cables.

1. Space-Division Multiplexing (SDM)

SDM involves using multiple spatial paths within a single fiber, significantly increasing the capacity of submarine cables. This technology is expected to play a crucial role in meeting future data transmission demands.

2. Advanced Signal Processing

Techniques such as coherent detection and digital signal processing (DSP) enhance the performance of submarine cables by improving signal quality and reducing noise. These advancements enable longer transmission distances without the need for frequent repeaters.

3. Environmental Monitoring

Submarine cables equipped with environmental sensors can be used for oceanographic and climate studies. These cables can monitor seismic activity, ocean temperature, and other environmental parameters, providing valuable data for scientific research.

4. Global Connectivity Initiatives

Various global initiatives aim to enhance connectivity in underserved regions by deploying new submarine cables. Projects like the Google-funded Equiano cable in Africa and the Facebook-backed 2Africa cable aim to provide high-speed internet access to millions of people, fostering economic development and bridging the digital divide.


Submarine fiber optic cables are indispensable to the modern world, underpinning global communication and data transfer. Their classification, applications, and technological advancements highlight their significance and the challenges involved in their deployment and maintenance. As the demand for data continues to surge, ongoing innovations and investments in submarine cable infrastructure will be crucial for sustaining and enhancing global connectivity.