Market Studies

US Submarine Cables – a Review and Forecast

Published: July, 2018


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This report, perhaps uniquely, forecasts growth in traffic on US submarine cables by traffic source/sink areas (Europe, Asia, and Latin America.) Also uniquely, this report uses traffic growth forecasts, as well as market information about the major cable users (cloud computing and others,) to actually forecast specific future cable construction along with likely participants.

It is remarkable that a major and indispensable component of the network we call the Internet goes back over 150 years - actually before the Civil War! These old-timers are international submarine cables. The first true international and first trans-Atlantic cable was installed between Newfoundland and Ireland in 1858 (used of course, for telegraphy use as the telephone was decades away.)

This was actually before the basic engineering was understood for transmission lines, which grew out of transmission line work done by Maxwell, Kelvin and Heaviside between the 1850s and the 1880s. The lack of understanding this basic engineering led to the destruction of this first trans-Atlantic cable a few weeks after it was placed in service. One of the owners tried to increase its speed by upping the voltage. The higher voltage resulted in the cable shorting out to the water and thus destroyed it. Before this cable met its maker, it transmitted a historic message between Queen Victoria and President Buchanan. The message consisted of 98 words and took a mere 16.5 hours to transmit!

The new submarine cables are, of course, fiber optic based and handle up to nearly 200 Terabits per second! Theses cables connect all the continents (except Antarctica) and most major islands. They are a critical part of international communications, handling over 95% of all international traffic. They make international business possible as well as being key to many national defense efforts. Recently there has been a decided up-tick in submarine cable construction to meet the ever growing traffic demand. Of late, a major driver of this traffic has been the international clientele of the on-line powerhouses - Facebook, Google and others along with some of the major cloud computing companies such as Amazon.

“Submarine Cables” outlines US international activity in this area from humble beginnings in the 1850s to today. It describes the cables, the landing equipment and all major components. There is a detailed discussion of the participation of the cloud computing and social network companies as owners and operators of submarine cables. It also provides information on the major cables recently completed or shortly planned for completion. In addition, it provides sketches of major vendors for both cable and equipment.

Most importantly, this report provides detailed forecasts of expected international traffic; new, unannounced cables likely to be required and the routes; and suggestions as to who the owners/builders may be.

Table of Contents

US Submarine Cables – a Review and Forecast 1
Table of Contents 2
Table of Figures 5
The Lightwave Network Series of Reports 6
   The Lightwave Network 6
   The Lightwave Series of Reports 7
     General Reports on the Network 8
     General Market Reports 8
     Specific Systems Reports 11
Introduction 15
History and Background 16
Submarine Cable System Components 19
   Cable 20
     Repeaters 20
     Branching Unit 21
     Gain Equalizers 22
     Cable Types 23
   Cable Vulnerabilities 26
     Natural Disasters and Accidents 26
     War or Terror Attacks 26
     Eavesdropping 27
   List of Cable Providers 27
     Submarine Cable - Manufacturer / Supplier Directory 28
     Hengtong Marine Cable System 28
     AEI Cables 28
     Nokia (Alcatel-Lucent) 28
     Corning Cable Systems 28
    Ericsson 29
     Fulgor 29
     General Cable 29
     Hanhe Cable Company 30
     Hesfibel 30
     Jainson Cables India Pvt Ltd 30
     JDR 31
     J-Power Systems 31
     Kerite 31
     LS Cable & System 31
     NEC 32
     Nexans 32
     NKT Cables 32
     NSW 32
     OCC Corporation 33
     Okonite 33
     Parker Scanrope 33
     Prysmian 34
     TE Subcom 34
     Turkuaz Cable 34
     Viscas Corp. 34
     ZTT (Jiangsu Zhongtian Technology Co.,Ltd.) 35
   Landing Equipment 35
   Equipment Detail 35
   List of Equipment Providers 37
  Submarine Cable Optical Equipment Company Directory 38
     Nokia 38
     Ciena 38
     Ekinops 38
     Fujitsu 39
     Glimmerglass 39
     Huawei Marine Networks 39
     Infinera 40
     Juniper Networks 40
     Metaswitch 40
     Mitsubishi Electric 40
     NEC 41
     TE Subcom 41
Current Situation 42
   Cables Planned or Pending 42
     List of Planned or Recent Submarine Cables 42
   Capacity of New Cables 48
     New Tech, New Possibilities 48
     More Submarine Cables, More Interconnection 49
   Cloud Computing Company Participation 49
   Cloud Computing 51
     Web-Scaled Datacenter 52
     Cloud Computing Data Center 53
     Cloud Computing Models 54
      Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): 54
      Platform as a Service (PaaS): 54
      Software as a Service (SaaS): 54
   Impact of Cloud Computing on Submarine Network Requirements 55
Forecast for the Future 57
   US Total Traffic Forecast 57
   US International Traffic by Source 58
   Growth Areas 58
     Pacific Growth 59
   Submarine Cable Forecasts Summary 61
Appendix I, Traffic Statistics Relationships 63
   SONET/SDH Data Rates 66
Appendix II, Data Traffic Fundamentals 67
Appendix II, Data Traffic Fundamentals 67
   Internet Traffic Calculations 67
     Bits and Bytes 67
     Transfer Rate 67
     Busy Hour Traffic 68
     Protocol Efficiencies 69
     Peaking 70

Table of Figures

Figure 1, Lightwave Network 7
Figure 2, First Submarine Cable 16
Figure 3, Submarine Cables Today - A Map 17
Figure 4, Submarine Cable Components Layout 19
Figure 5, Submarine Cable System Expanded Main Components 20
Figure 6, Repeater Characteristics 21
Figure 7, Purpose of Branching Units 21
Figure 8, Branching Unit 21
Figure 9, Gain Equalizer 22
Figure 10, Cross Section of Typical Undersea Cable – Shallow Water 23
Figure 11, Submarine Cable Characteristics 23
Figure 12, Deep Water Submarine Cable 24
Figure 13, Types of Submarine Cables 24
Figure 14, Landing Equipment in a Branched System 35
Figure 15, Detail of Typical Landing Equipment 36
Figure 16, Different View of Terminating Equipment 37
Figure 17, Major Submarine Cables by Cloud Computing Companies 50
Figure 18, Google's Submarine Cable Investments 51
Figure 19, Hyperscale Datacenter Growth 52
Figure 20, Global Data Center IP Traffic Growth 55
Figure 21, All forms of US Traffic 57
Figure 22, US International Traffic by Source 58
Figure 23, Pacific Growth Area 60
Figure 24: Traffic/Speed Relationships 63
Figure 25: Example of Various Traffic Sizes 64
Figure 26, Multiples of Byte 65
Figure 27, Sonet/SDH Conversions 66
Figure 28: New Transfer Rate Forecast 68
Figure 29: Summary of Concepts 71