99% of all internet traffic from this article to your phone to your family WhatsApp group runs on a hidden network of undersea cables. Why should you care – because modern life is increasingly dependent on those slinky subaquatic wires and sometimes, they get attacked by sharks from time to time. How do they work? What’s the future for them? Join in this article because we plunge into the depths and ask how the internet travels across oceans.
According to the authoritative submarine cable map website, there are currently 493 active or actively under construction sub-sea internet cables crisscrossing the globe. These range from the relatively modest 300-kilometer Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan wire running under the black sea. To the gargantuan 6600-kilometer Maria cable linking Virginia Beach in the United States with bill bow in northern Spain. Maria weighs the same as 24 blue whales.
The firm’s laying down this serpentine superhighway worldwide. There are now 1.5 million kilometers of undersea data wires about how much it all costs but professional estimates indicate a typical transoceanic cable should set you back between three and four hundred million dollars, which seems like a lot because they’re not especially thick.
Typically, around the girth of a garden hose, and that includes layers of protective thixotropic jelly around the all-important fiber optic core. Plus, multiple plastic sheaths and copper wiring to power the thing. But even so on average, they can ferry an awesome 100 gigabytes per second in data, with newer and forthcoming cables able to transmit 400 gigabytes per second.
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How does so much data fit down such slim channels?
Part of the answer is an extremely sophisticated data-wrangling technique known as Dense wavelength division multiplexing. Put simply dense wavelength division multiplexing lets data providers use more than one wavelength of light to convey information fiber optically. instead, several wavelengths are employed simultaneously and stacked creating astonishing data speeds. This happens at buzzing data center-like landing sites at either end of the cable.