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Underwater Lines

Underwater Lines

With all the talk of cloud computing, you may be under the impression that the internet communications travel via satellite, you would be mistaken, the way the data is transferred is via a bunch of wires underneath our oceans.

How does the Internet work?

Imagine yourself talking to a friend on an instant messaging app such as “Whatsapp”. You both interact through the app sending messages that take half a second to deliver. In order for that to happen there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.

First of all, your message contains data that is broken into “packets” of smaller data files that travel roughly two-thirds the speed of light. Your home router sends these packets to the cable provided by your internet service provider and the data is passed from cable to cable until they reach the final destination. This destination isn’t in a cloud, it is basically another computer sitting in a massive warehouse somewhere.

If the data you require is hosted overseas, then, your data packets travel through underwater cables. All in all, no matter how quickly you actually see the information on your desktop or mobile phone, that data has gone a long way.

Over the past few decades, we have laid more than half a million miles of cable throughout the oceans responsible for transmitting the data. They connect all the continents together with very long cables, each one about the width of a garden hose.

Fibre optics are the material that transmits the actual data. However, they just make up a fraction of the thickness of the submarine communications cable. Many other materials such as polyethylene, mylar tape, steel, aluminium, polycarbonate, copper or petroleum are used for protection purposes.

In 2020, the United States had laid more cables than any other country in the world. The other countries with the most IEPS are Brazil, Russia, France, Indonesia, Germany, Canada, Ukraine, Poland and Hong Kong.

However, this doesn’t mean the US has the fastest internet connection in the world. Actually, the fastest desktop internet connection belongs to South Korea, whereas the fastest mobile internet connection is found in Vietnam.

 What is going to be next?

The numerous underwater cables are fixed and replaced regularly, however, the old ones are left underwater contaminating the environment. That is why the biggest tech companies are taking a stab at Internet 2.0.

  • Google is planning to use balloons in the stratosphere; which will last for about 100 years. After that, the materials would be brought back to the surface leaving no materials in the air.
  • Facebook is considering using drones to reach remote and rural areas.
  • SpaceX is planning to launch satellites into orbit this year to be tested as a new method to provide internet connections.
  • OneWebs also plans to use satellites. However, they focus on providing reliable internet access to underdeveloped areas or places experiencing natural disasters and other emergencies. Their satellites are smaller, cheaper and easier to produce.

Even if the future is still blurry, one thing is clear, the Internet will eventually move to the clouds one way or the other. 

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