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Submarine Cable Security

Global Undersea Cables_090122A
[Global Undersea Cables - Aerospace]


- Overview

The vast majority of intercontinental global internet traffic is carried by submarine cables that span the ocean floor. As the "world's information superhighway", submarine cables carry more than 95% of international data. Compared to satellites, submarine cables provide high-capacity, cost-effective and reliable connections that are essential to our daily lives. There are approximately 450 active cables worldwide, covering 1.3 million kilometers (500,000 miles). These hundreds of cables are jointly owned by private and state-owned entities and support everything from consumer shopping to government file sharing to Internet scientific research. 

The security and resiliency of submarine cables, and the data and services that travel within them, are an often underestimated and underrated element of modern internet geopolitics. The construction of new submarine cables is a key part of the changing physical topology of the global Internet.


- Critical Global Communications Infrastructure

The Euro-Atlantic region is the oldest undersea cable line, carrying traffic between the two largest economic hubs through dozens of cables, most of which are between the US, UK and France. Europe relies heavily on these cables because most of its data is stored in data centers located in the United States. 

Other major routes are those connecting Europe with Asia (via the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal) and Asia with the United States (via the Pacific Ocean). From a more forward-looking perspective, Arctic routes from Europe to Asia are increasingly being explored because they offer significantly shorter routes. Nonetheless, these polar cables still face significant technical challenges and are not yet a reliable alternative route.

This global network of submarine cables provides the high-bandwidth connectivity needed for a variety of activities vital to our modern society, from financial transactions to global communications or international scientific collaboration. In the financial sector alone, by 2021, submarine cables will carry around $10 trillion in financial transfers per day. 

As data demands grow, the reliance on submarine cables will continue to increase: Driven by the shift to cloud services and the proliferation of 5G networks, bandwidth requirements are doubling almost every two years in the near future.


- National Security and Undersea Cables

Data is arguably the most important strategic asset of the 21st century. The ability to access data and protect its integrity is critical to America's security and prosperity. Protecting data will become even more important as 5G and artificial intelligence transform our society into a highly integrated network. 

Submarine cables enable instant communication, transporting about 95 percent of data and voice traffic across international borders. They also form the backbone of the global economy. Subsea infrastructure is not just for civilian use. The U.S. government relies on cables to transmit information.

For example, undersea cables are critical to transatlantic security, as governments rely heavily on this infrastructure for their own communications. Diplomatic cables and military orders run primarily through these privately owned cables as military operations, while classified cables remain marginal. The 2008 rupture of an undersea cable between Egypt and Italy caused a drastic reduction in U.S. drone flights in Iraq from hundreds to dozens a day. 

Due to the many military applications of 5G in intelligence, command and control, or unmanned and autonomous vehicles, the future reliance on submarine cables to project and maintain power will increase.


- Submarine Network Operators

The planning, production, deployment and maintenance of submarine cables are almost entirely in the hands of the private sector. At present, the four major suppliers are Alcatel Submarine Networks (France), SubCom (United States), NEC (Japan) and the rising star Huawei Marine Networks (China), whose market share will gradually rise to 10% in 2021. 

If network operators have traditionally been major investors in submarine cables, content providers (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook) are also expanding their investments in this area to ensure the interconnection of their data centers.



[More to come ...]



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