The earth is a watery place. H2O covers the majority (71 percent) of our planet’s surface, and vast oceans separate global populations by thousands of miles. Despite all of this, people are drawing closer than ever before.
This closeness is made possible by the internet, and this level of connectivity is made possible by the massive network of over 350 submarine cables that cover our ocean floors.
Modern-day subsea cables are genuine technological marvels. Every continent across the globe, with the exception of Antarctica, possesses multiple submarine connections consisting of nearly 380 undersea cables that stretch almost 750,000 miles.
This network isn’t limited to the work of governments and big unknown companies. In fact, 8.5 percent of the cables worldwide are owned all, or in part, by Google. Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft also collectively have a stake in another 80,000 miles of this massive network of underwater cables. The fastest subsea cable in the world, the MAREA, is a joint venture between Microsoft and Facebook that has transfer speeds of 26.2 terabits (Tbps) per second and a potential capacity reaching as high as 160 Tbps.
As a greater percentage of our growing population has access to an internet connection, demand for faster subsea cables with more bandwidth capacity will continue to grow as well. According to Cisco, by 2022, IP traffic will approach 4.8 zettabytes (ZB). By 2025, our total data output will be 175ZB per year when accounting for AI (Artificial Intelligence), machine learning, and the IoT (Internet of Things).
In order to expand subsea network capacity, governments and private companies are expected to increase their investment from $12 billion in 2018 to over $21 billion by 2023. This investment will allow for a capacity increase of 150 percent over the next 3 years to keep up with the growth in internet usage.
From data center to data center, the infographic below outlines what we can expect these cables to look like.