With much of the global focus on delivering wireless internet to places without connectivity, it is easy to forget about the massive undersea cable system that is the main driver for much intercontinental web access. Although wireless internet is the next generation of web connection, the physical cables that span oceans are still vital for connecting countries to the world wide web. Google’s recent much-publicized investment in a $300 million cable that will speed up internet to Asian countries has returned some of the focus to this important technology, but other projects are in the works around the globe to try to boost internet speeds.
Google’s cable project will employ five East Asian companies to build a 6,000 mile fiber-optic underwater cable that will span the Pacific Ocean, connecting the West Coast of the U.S. to two cities in Japan. The project will address the need for heightened web travel, and is another one of Google’s major cable initiatives which amount to about 100,000 miles of private fiber optic cable routes around the world, according to Forbes. Google revealed that an obstacle — among many physical challenges for laying undersea cables — has come in the form of sharks attempting to chomp the fiber. The company has covered its cables in Kevlar-like material in order to prevent injury to the wires.
Projects in Africa are also attempting to fortify the precious cables that connect the continent to the web, as various African countries struggle with maintaining physical cable structures in the face of rampant cable theft. Telecom Namibia has announced that it will begin to repair of the West Africa Cable System (WACS), which is off Namibia’s coast. The WACS is an enormous structure that carries internet to multiple countries, and during the work, Telecom Namibia will transfer internet connections through other undersea cables that span the coast of Africa.
VISUAL CONTEXT: AFRICAN AND MEDITERRANEAN CABLES
Asian countries are ramping up efforts to lay and preserve their cables that connect them to higher-speed internet, especially as the numbers of internet users grows, and faster connections are required. As Google makes its aforementioned moves in this regard, certain countries are trying to ensure that their cable systems are up to par. Last month, Vietnam set upon fixing cables connected to the Asia-America Gateway (AAG) system. The AAG is a 12,400 mile cable system that connects the U.S. including Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore. The cable had experienced a cut, affecting internet through Vietnam-based service providers.
Through ramping up efforts to secure the undersea cables — whether from sharks or criminals — countries with slower access can look towards a future of high-speed internet.