The total amount of data created, downloaded, copied and consumed globally will reach 120,000 exabytes (EB) this year and reach 180,000 within two years, according to Statista. An exabyte is equivalent to 20 times the content of all books written in history up to a decade ago, according to Acens (Telefónica Tech) calculations, or for a 5,950-kilometre tower of stacked DVDs, according to DE-CIX, the leading global operator of Internet exchanges. The total traffic forecast this year will be like 43 trillion HD movies (3GB each) watched online. How do you manage this huge amount of information? One of the main elements is the fiber-optic highway network, and in particular, to ensure global traffic, linearly arranged submarine lines will reach 1.2 million km and will be enough to rotate the planet 30 times. Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Science believes this network can be put to other uses and technology companies are developing complementary pathways into space.
Byte traffic, far from the peak, is increasing and will do more with the advent of AI. More and more data is being transmitted over the Internet because modern digital applications and services require more and more information from various sources. This trend will continue as consumers’ use of digital apps continues to increase,” explains Christoph Dietzel, global director of product and research at DE-CIX.
How do you manage this much data? The answer is out of sight: under the sea and in space.
The submarine network, consisting of half a thousand lines, is 165 years old. The first connection to the ocean, which operated for only a few weeks, dates back to 1858 and allowed Queen Victoria of England to congratulate the then President of the United States, James Buchanan, on his birthday. Since then the growth has not stopped, although the largest application has been registered in the past two decades. The longest fiber optic cable in the world serving 3,000 million people in Africa, Europe and Asia over a length of 45,000 km, which arrived in Barcelona last October. The one that joins Japan and Europe has a length of 28,000 km, and, on the contrary, the distance between the UK and Ireland, only 130 km.
Undersea cables are no more than the width of an average human arm, and contain optical fibers as small as the diameter of a hair sheathed with materials such as polyethylene, copper, and waterproof aluminum baffles. This shield does not prevent accidents from moorings, nets, geo-marine accidents, animals and natural phenomena. In this way, it has a useful life of about 25 years and requires permanent maintenance that takes place with fleets deployed in strategic points of the sea where there is a greater concentration of infrastructures so that, using a robot, the damaged area can be lifted and repaired.
Its deployment may not be completely harmless, although developments seek to minimize potential impacts. Installation and maintenance may damage or disturb marine habitats (Renewable and sustainable energy comments) by altering sediment and the distribution of nutrients in the area, especially if dredging and excavation are used. Noise during these stages can also affect animals.
On the contrary, Teresa Popis, Regional Director of DE-CIX, highlights the positive effects: “If installed correctly, optical fiber cables have a neutral effect on the environment. A study conducted by the University of Southampton (UK) showed that marine organisms Cables colonize within one to two months, depending on conditions.In fact, in coastal areas such as Maryland or New Jersey (USA), cable reels have been installed to favor the creation of artificial reefs and thus attract a large number of marine organisms.These areas can become sanctuaries, leading to increased biodiversity.”
Today’s digital society depends on the transmission of data. The complementary path is space, where 5,465 satellites orbit (about half of them for communications), according to the most recent data from UCS. According to the European Commission, although fibers offer superior performance (more capacity and speed), they require more time and resources to deploy. However, satellite solutions are almost immediate and essential in areas where there is no access to broadband or to mobile devices and land, air or sea vehicles.
For Bobis, “Both elements are essential in the Internet’s infrastructure and respond to different use cases, since everything revolves around speed and bandwidth. Right now, the main advantage of a submarine cable over a satellite connection is that it responds with significantly lower latency and is capable of The cable’s one exabyte transfer rate allows you to download the entire Netflix library in a quarter of a second or all of the Internet’s content in 12 minutes, according to his company’s calculations.
“If we talk about new concepts, such as satellites in low Earth orbit [siglas en inglés de órbita terrestre baja]Its proximity to the ground also allows for higher internet speeds and lower latency. As a result, it provides an ideal opportunity to support network expansion and coverage in rural areas during the roll-out of fiber-optic infrastructure. “.
For the DE-CIX board, “fiber in general is still much better than the alternative from space in terms of speed and latency. In addition, infrastructures related to satellite Internet on Earth are still dependent on fiber. Satellites will not be able to replace the fiber network.” fully optical in the near future, but satellite operators may not even aspire to it.On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly clear that the greatest added value arises when both technologies coexist in meaningful coexistence and can be mutually beneficial.It will be a long time before they are guaranteed Network coverage fiber optic internet for the whole world Until then, satellites can remedy the situation and reduce costs The situation is similar on the business front: in the coming years, a temporary satellite internet connection may be a great asset for businesses in rural areas, allowing them to implement innovations The long-awaited technological.In the long run, it’s not here either [en las zonas rurales] Fiber optic network can be avoided.
One of the alternatives to satellites, but also space thinking is balloons. The European Commission and six defense ministries have allocated €63.5 million to the EuroHAPS project. High altitude platform systems) to build environmental and recoverable aircraft to improve communication capabilities, as well as use them for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Similarly, space is also offered as an alternative to data centers.
In any case, as Bobis shows, all communication networks are complementary and have applications that can go beyond data transmission. “These same submarine cables can be used to collect data on deep waters and the seafloor, thus providing information on key environmental issues,” says Bruce Howe, of the University of Hawaii’s Department of Ocean Engineering and lead of the initiative. SMART cables from UNESCO and other entities.
And not just submarines. According to the University of Washington (UW), underground fiber-optic networks, such as those on the sea floor, have the potential to register ground vibrations as small as one nanometer anywhere a cable touches the ground. “Fiber-optic sensing is the biggest advance in geophysics since the field went digital in the 1970s,” says Brad Lipovsky, a researcher and assistant professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington.
Other research collected by Scientific report Demonstrates the usefulness of wave vibrations in normal telecommunication traffic to detect seismic disturbances in a 10,000 km submarine fiber optic cable. The same publication reflected a study on how to track ocean and seafloor dynamics using distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) on fiber optic cables.
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