Innovating and Automating Undersea Cable Route Planning
How analytics and machine learning are transforming a mission-critical task by reducing it from months to hours.
The world is becoming more connected day by day
If we physically retraced the daily path of our digital footprints, following all the WhatsApp messages, Tik-Tok videos, emails, and website visits, we’d get very wet in the process. That’s because over 97% of the world’s data and voice traffic travels under the sea through a web of fiber-optic cables that sink to levels as deep as Mount Everest is tall. Many people assume our data bits and bytes travel wirelessly from one continent to the next, but sending and receiving signals to and from space takes much longer and is far more expensive. This means that despite thousands of satellites orbiting the globe, it’s underwater cables that truly connect us. They are like gigantic extension cords stretching from one continent to the next – making instant communications possible and supporting over $10 trillion in financial transactions every single day. Without them, the global economy would come to a screeching halt.
Avoiding internet-eating sharks and other undersea threats
Submarine communication cables are often thousands of miles long and can transmit data at 99.7 percent the speed of light, but that wasn’t always the case. The first trans-Atlantic cable was installed in 1858, and it took nearly 18 hours to send a message. We have come a long way in very short period. Today, approximately 750,000 miles of communications cables stretch across the world’s oceans. Tech giants, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon, either own or lease nearly half of the world’s undersea bandwidth, and more projects are constantly in the works.
Meeting the insatiable demand for internet and cloud services comes at a high price. One submarine cable can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to deploy and several million to repair. It’s critical to think ahead and carefully plan where to route and place each cable. There are certain physical terrain issues on seabed that need to be avoided, such as rocky outcrops, undersea volcanos, seismic fault lines, coral reefs and avoiding other existing cables and pipes. Plus, there are political and socio-economic challenges to account for, such as territorial waters, economic zones, fish beds, marine heritage sites, and piracy threats. Even sharks are a risk as they can be attracted by the cables’ electrical fields; sharks have been known to enjoy eating the internet. Specialized shark-proof cables help avoid this issue.
Current planning methodology is not fit for the modern world
If all goes well, undersea cables typically last a few decades but proper placement and optimization are critical to ensure this happens. The end game is to extend the life of each cable and minimize the risk of damage. The process has never been simple. Traditionally this has been a time-consuming engineering exercise whereby planners must make detailed manual route adjustments, studying each meter of the seafloor to overcome the layered complexities and maximize future availability, we have discussed above. Each route can take months of careful planning and require teams of highly experienced engineers.
Submarine cable route planning and optimization – reimagined through automation
TEOCO’s Submarine Cable Optimization Engine (SCopE) alleviates these challenges by leveraging complex multi-step algorithms to optimize routes and cable types. It is the first and only submarine cable routing tool that automates and optimizes the whole planning process whilst taking into accounts all the terrain and social economic issues. It simplifies the entire process, reducing what previously took months of manual effort into something that takes only a few hours. This also allows SCopE to quickly analyze multiple route iterations, ensuring each fiber route meets set targets thereby optimizing costs against maximum availability.
TEOCO is revolutionizing undersea route planning by providing customers with automation tools that analyze the massive number of variables and environmental constraints discussed above. It provides the fastest, most reliable, and cost-effective submarine cable deployments possible, even recommending which cables are best suited for specific areas- sharks included.
SCopE is part of TEOCO’s Submarine Cable Product Suite, providing automated route planning, design, and visualization for new cable deployments, as well as operational risk assessments and repair management to help maintain and extend the life of existing undersea assets.
We’re excited to collaborate and innovate with some of the world’s largest internet providers in pioneering new ways and concepts to keep us all connected.