Whenever you access a website hosted on a foreign server, chances are high that the information you are receiving travelled through the depths of the ocean. With over 99% of international internet and telephone traffic passing through submarine telecommunication cables1, they are a vital though often forgotten part of today’s digital society.
Submarine cables have a long history starting with the first commercial submarine telegraph cable in the English Channel in 1850, closely followed by the first transatlantic cable in 18661. While these early cables consisted of insulated copper wires, which were simply dropped on the seabed, current generation submarine cables consist of optical fibres covered by many protective layers buried in the seafloor2.
These fibre-optic cables have the capacity to transmit data at a staggering 200 terabits per second1, which vastly outpaces today’s satellite radio transmission (around 1 gigabits per second), making them the preferred means of communication. However, this capacity comes at a significant price. Submarine telecommunication cable networks cost billions to install1 and need constant monitoring and repair, as they may be broken or damaged by trawl fishing, anchors, earthquakes, submarine landslides and even shark bites2.
The map of the week features a schematic representation of the submarine communication cables that cross European waters. Click on one of the cables to learn more about its type, length, capacity, when it was installed and who maintains it.
The data in this map were provided by EMODnet human activities.