Subsea cable market shows its worth

06 June 2013 | Alex Hawkes

Alex Hawkes

Blog Author |


The subsea cable market can always cling defiantly to the fact that it is responsible for carrying approximately 98% of the world’s internet traffic.

The subsea cable market can always cling defiantly to the fact that it is responsible for carrying approximately 98% of the world’s internet traffic.

Given that the global digital economy is said to be worth a total of $20.3 trillion and a considerable chunk of the general public still hold onto the false belief that internet traffic is sent by satellite, the statistic neatly reaffirms how critically important this corner of the telecoms market truly is.

There was certainly a bullish mood at this year’s SubOptic, the triennial event that brings together the subsea cable community. The market has faced some tough times as of late – the global recession of course not being particularly sympathetic to the huge investments required to get new cable systems off the ground and into the water. But there appears to be a renewed sense of optimism at this year’s conference in Paris, reflected in the high numbers of attendees.

Part of it stems from some of the excellent technological advances that have helped deliver subsea cable operators with previously unimaginable levels of speed and capacity. The other stems from the growing support and recognition from governments, which are slowly but surely putting more policies in place to protect cables. Take New Zealand and Australia, for example, which have both introduced cable protection zones that restrict or prohibit commercial activities over cable routes. Ships caught with deep anchorage, for instance, in these zones can face considerable fines or even imprisonment.

This puts a large deterrent in place and relieves considerable pressure from the subsea cable operators, which otherwise would have to turn to the civil courts to receive compensation. The problem is, of course, that protecting this critical infrastructure requires equal care and attention worldwide. A cable cut in the Middle East, for instance, could still impact connectivity in Australasia, and therefore progressive policies such as cable protection zones will only be truly effective if implemented globally. It’s overall, however, an encouraging sign that the industry is finally getting the recognition it deserves.