Tag Archive: submarine cable system

In my previous post Submarine Cable Network, Malaysia Outlook (Part V) on July 9, 2010, I’ve included a diagram of “Typical Submarine Cable System” (refer below) but unfortunately I forgot to describe the diagram. Pardon moi!

So today, I’m gonna make it up by giving the description of the diagram as follows:

Typical Submarine Cable System

Typical Submarine Cable System

Cable Landing Station

The landing station is the first point at which the submarine cable is terminated/connected to the landing country. The landing station will be used as international gateway for internet traffic by ISP.

Landing stations house terminal equipment, including lasers, multiplexers, and power supply, that takes the optical signal from the submarine cable and passes it on to a terrestrial system.

Terminal Equipment

Terminal equipment, typically housed in the equipment room and landing station room, is what is necessary to light the entire length of the cable and to provide a point of connection for the
submarine cable to the terrestrial infrastructure in the country. They include power feeding equipment (PFE), transmission equipment, Submarine Line Terminal Equipment (SLTE), SONET/SDH Interconnecting Equipment (SIE), System Supervisory Equipment (SSE), and network monitoring equipment.

Network Management System

The landing station would have a state of the art network management system which can monitor/manage the network effectively. Network Management Systems shall provide fault, configuration, performance, and security management at local, and global levels.

Buried Cable Segment

Submarine cables are typically buried as they approach shore. This helps protect submarine cables from trawlers and fishing operations from accidentally breaking the submarine cable along the shore.

Submarine Cables

Submarine cables are laid on the ocean floor and require several layers of amour to to protect the system from damage due to debris, pressure, or shifts along the ocean floor.


Repeaters are placed along the length of the submarine cable system to correct and amplify the signal carried by the system. The distance between repeaters is relative to the overall system bandwidth; higher capacity systems require repeaters to be spaced closer together.

Source: TeleGeography, Fujitsu

Follow this link to view or download the larger image of “Typical Submarine Cable System”.


Continued… Part VI – Cable Size and Comparing Submarine Cables vs Satellite.

Today, I’ll discuss on the submarine telecommunications cable physical size and the comparison between sub-cable and satellite.

  • Modern submarine telecommunications cables are small; deep-ocean types without protective armor are typically 17-20 mm diameter, similar to that of a garden hose.
  • Armored fiber-optic cables on the other hand may reach 50 mm diameter.
  • In contrast, submarine oil/gas pipes reach 900 mm diameter, and fishing trawls typically range over 5,000 – 50,000 mm width.
  • Cable lengths vary; one of the longest is the SEA-ME-WE 4 system at ~20,000 km SEA-ME-WE 3 system at ~39,000 km.

Below is a diagram to better illustrate the size comparison:

Modern fiber-optic cable in hand (for scale) and relative to 300mm diameter subsea pipe.

There is a common misconception that nowadays most international communications are routed via satellites, when in fact well over 95% of this traffic is actually routed via submarine telecommunications fiber-optic cables. Data and voice transfer via these cables is not only cheaper, but also much quicker than via satellite.

In 1988, the first trans-oceanic fiber-optic cable was installed, which marked the transition when submarine telecommunications cables started to outperform satellites in terms of the volume, speed and economics of data and voice communications.

However, despite  the  success  of  submarine  telecommunications, satellite transmission remains a necessary adjunct. Satellites  provide  global  broadcasts  and  communications for  sparsely  populated  regions  not  served  by  cables. They also form a strategic back-up for disaster-prone regions.

Below are the advantages comparison between submarine telecommunications cables and satellites.

Main advantages of sub-cables

  • High reliability, capacity & security.
    • Securely  and  consistently deliver  very  high-capacity  communications  between  population  centers.
  • None of the delays present in satellite traffic
  • Cost-effective on major routes, hence rates cheaper than satellites
    • The advantages  of  low  cost  and  high  bandwidth  are  becoming attractive  to  governments  with  low  population  densities.

Yield: Submarine cables carry >95% of international voice & data traffic.

Almost  all  transoceanic telecommunications  are  now  routed  via  the  submarine cable network instead of satellite.

Main advantages of satellites

  • Suitable for disaster-prone areas
  • Provides wide coverage for mobile subscribers
  • Suitable for linking isolated regions and small island nations into the international telecom network

Yield: Satellites carry <5% of international voice & data traffic

Source: International Cable Protection Committee Ltd

To be continued… Part VII – Strategic Importance of Submarine Cables, Coastal Cable Routes and International Cable Routes.


Continued… Part V– Comparing Old & New + How Submarine Cables Work

Yesterday I discuss on the comparison of the components/materials used to construct the submarine telecommunications cable between the early days and present (modern days).

Today, I’ll further compare the capacity between the early days and present (modern days) submarine telecommunications cable system in its respective era as follows:

Old Cable Systems:

  • 1866: First trans-Atlantic cable carried telegraph messages at 7 words a minute & cost £20 for 20 word message
  • 1948: Telegram costs reduced to 4 pence a word for transmission across the Atlantic
  • 1956: First trans-Atlantic telephone cable (TAT-1) initially had capacity of 36 telephone calls at a time; calls costing US$12 for first 3 minutes

Modern Cable Systems:

  • 1988: First Atlantic fiber-optic cable, TAT-8, had capacity for 40,000 simultaneous phone calls, 10 times that of the last copper cable
  • Today: Each fiber pair within a cable has the capacity to carry digitized information (including video) that is equivalent to 150,000,000 simultaneous phone calls. Wow!

Knowing that the modern days sub-cables deliver the data much significantly than early days, we may wonder how these submarine cables work.

How Submarine Cables Work

  • Modern submarine telecommunications cables rely on a property of pure glass fibers, whereby light is
    transmitted by internal reflection
  • Because the light signal loses strength en route, repeaters are installed along the cable to boost the signal
  • New systems rely on optical amplifiers – glass strands containing the element, erbium. Strands are spliced at intervals along a cable & then energized by lasers that cause erbium-doped fibers to “lase” & boost optical signals

Based on the above, a typical submarine cable system is depicted on the following diagram.

Typical Submarine Cable System

Typical Submarine Cable System

>> Follow the following link to download free a bigger image size (960×703):

(File Name: http://www.ziddu.com/download/10632377/Typical_Submarine_Cable_System_watermark.png.html )

Source: International Cable Protection Committee Ltd

To be continued… Part VI– Cable Size and Comparing Submarine Cables vs Satellite.


Continued… Part IV– Sub-Cable Network Familiarization (Sub-Cable Components)

In previous post, I’ve discussed a brief history of submarine telecommunications cable where it was started as early as in 1840.

Today, I’ll discuss on the comparison of the components/materials used to construct the submarine telecommunications cable between the early days and present (modern days). For better grasp of understanding, illustrations will be used as follows.

  • Early Telegraph Cable


Early Submarine Telegraph Cable components/layers (old-type)


A >> Conductor-usually copper

B >> Insulation – gutta percha resin

C >> Cushioning-jute yarn

D >> Inner protection-wire armor

E >> Jute wrap to contain wire

F >> Outer protection-wire armor

G >> Jute wrap to contain armor


  • Modern Submarine Cable
Modern Submarine Cable layers (new-type)

Modern Submarine Cable components/layers (new-type)


A >> Optical fibers – silica glass

B >> Core for strength & fiber separation – polyethylene/fiberglass

C >> Jacket – polyethylene

D >> Conductor – copper

E >> Jacket – polyethylene

F >> Protective armor – steel wire

G >> Outer protection & wire containment – polypropylene yarn


Note that the construction of submarine telecommunications cable varies with manufacturer & seabed conditions.

Cables may have no armor in stable, deep-ocean sites or 1 or more armor layers for energetic zones, e.g. coastal seas.

Source: International Cable Protection Committee Ltd

To be continued… Part V– Comparing Old & New + How Submarine Cables Work


Continued… Part III – Sub-Cable Network Familiarization (History)

To familiar with Submarine Cable Network, let’s start with the most important component of the network/system that is Submarine Telecommunications Cables.

For today post, I’ll discuss on a brief history of Submarine Telecommunications Cables so that we can have a better understanding from the history perspective. The era of seabed cables began around 1850, when the first international telegraph cable was laid across the English Channel.

  • 1840-1850: telegraph cables laid in rivers & harbors; limited life, improved with use of gutta percha insulation c.1843
Harvesting gutta percha resin

Harvesting gutta percha resin

  • 1850-1851: 1 st international telegraph link, connecting England-France across the English Channel, later cables joined other European countries & USA with Canada
Cables from UK-France link in 1850 (a) and 1851 (b)

Cables from UK-France link in 1850 (a) and 1851 (b)

  • 1858: 1st trans-Atlantic cable laid by Great Eastern, between Ireland & Newfoundland. Unfortunately this cable lasted only a few days before it was cut by a curious fisherman who thought he had discovered a new kind of seaweed and wanted to take a sample.  Failed after 26 days & new cable laid in 1866.
Great Eastern off Newfoundland c. 1858

Great Eastern off Newfoundland c. 1858

Atlantic cable 1866

Atlantic cable 1866

  • 1884: First underwater telephone cable service from San Francisco to Oakland
  • 1920s: Short-wave radio superseded cables for voice, picture & telex traffic, but capacity limited & subject to atmospheric effects
  • 1956: Invention of repeaters (1940s) & their use in TAT-1, the 1 st trans-Atlantic telephone cable, began era of rapid reliable communications
  • 1961: Beginning of high quality, global network
  • 1986: First international fiber-optic cable joins Belgium & UK
  • 1988: First trans-oceanic fibre-optic system (TAT-8) begins service in the Atlantic

Source: International Cable Protection Committee Ltd

To be continued… Part IV– Sub-Cable Network Familiarization (Sub-Cable Components)


Continued… Part II – Telekom Malaysia Response

Yesterday, I appended a news clipping from Business Times Singapore (26-Nov-2009) entitled “Investors put off by Malaysia’s high cost, low speed broadband“ where one major reason being the monopoly which state-owned Telekom Malaysia (TM) holds on submarine cable landing rights.

As expected, TM did response to the allegation and below is the excerpt of the News Release as posted on its website:

Under Malaysia’s regulatory framework, holders of Network Facilities Provider (NFP) license can build their own network and cable landing stations should they choose to invest in the facility. …. On our part, as a result of our business decision to invest in submarine cables either on our own or most often (95% of the time) as part of a consortium, TM today has 5 cable landing stations and multiple border gateways, its own private cable to Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei as well as a direct link with Africa through South Africa Far East Cable System (SAFE) / South Atlantic Cable System 3 (SAT 3). TM also provides major transit link for carriers using their wholly-owned capacity across east and west through our cable landing stations and IP transit and bandwidth links for Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Sri Lanka, and major countries in Indochina.

Clearly, it is a level playing field for all operators and the notion of protectionism certainly does not exist. In compliance with the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, TM provides open access to all of our cable landing stations to the other operators in Malaysia. In fact, for the last few years, all of our mobile carriers have activated their wholly-owned capacity and some actually use their own domestic backhaul. Apart from Malaysian mobile carriers, Thai carriers have also been TM’s customers for many years where we provide
them IP transit. We have made it public knowledge that we are open for private submarine cable systems to land in our landing stations e.g. FLAG belonging to Reliance Group of India and Dumai-Melaka Cable System (DMCS) which is wholly-owned by PT Telkom of Indonesia.

>> Follow the following link to download free full TM’s News Release above:


As seen above, TM’s response emphasized on these hot tags – cable landing station, cable landing rights, submarine cable system/network, multiple border gateway, IP transit, open access and last but not least domestic backhaul. No worries, we will explore as much as possible and tomorrow we will start the familiarization stage on this hot topic. Bear with me please….. 🙂

To be continued… Part III – Sub-Cable Network Familiarization (History)

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