Currents, tides, wrecks, and more: The impact of the environment on undersea connectivity

Undersea connection is a critical component of the global communications infrastructure, linking continents, governments, and individuals worldwide. However, various environmental elements, such as ocean currents, tides, and other physical and environmental conditions, can have an influence on the performance and dependability of underwater communications. In this article of SUBCO’s series on submarine cable optimisation and diversity, we will look at how these factors affect submarine connectivity.

First and foremost, ocean currents are one of the most important environmental elements that have the ability to adversely affect submarine communication. Physical stress from ocean currents can cause damage and shorten the lifespan of subsea cables. As ships and other vessels battle to maintain their place in the water, ocean currents can complicate the installation and maintenance of subsea cables.

Tides are another key aspect that might affect subsea communication as they impose physical stress on subsea cables, resulting in damage and a shorter lifespan. They can also complicate the installation and maintenance of subsea cables since ships and other vessels struggle to maintain their location in the ocean.

The existence of underwater barriers such as shipwrecks, rocks, and other obstacles is another environmental element that might impede undersea communication. These obstructions can cause physical damage to subsea cables, shortening their lifespan and negatively compromising their performance. Furthermore, underwater impediments can complicate the installation and maintenance of subsea cables, making them more difficult to access and repair. The consequences of climate change exacerbate the influence of environmental variables on underwater connection. Rising sea levels and rising ocean temperatures can put physical strain on subsea cables, shortening their lifespan and negatively compromising their performance. Furthermore, shifting ocean conditions can make installing and maintaining subsea cables more challenging, since ships and other boats struggle to manoeuvre in the changing circumstances.

Many subsea cable operators are resorting to innovative technology and tactics to offset the impact of environmental conditions on underwater communication. Some subsea cable operators, for example, use dynamic cable routeing to avoid ocean currents and tides, ensuring that subsea cables are placed and maintained in the best circumstances possible. Furthermore, some subsea cable operators use subsea cable protection devices to safeguard subsea cables from physical damage, hence extending their lifespan and boosting performance.

Environmental elements such as ocean currents, tides, and other physical and environmental circumstances can all have an influence on underwater communication. However, technological advancements and new methods are assisting in mitigating these effects by enhancing the reliability and performance of subsea communications and ensuring that consumers and companies are constantly connected.

At SUBCO, our subsea cables are strategically mapped to avoid shallow, sometimes volatile and congested waters by forging deep-sea routes that are less prone to potentially damaging environmental factors. Our Oman Australia Cable (OAC), for example, intentionally avoids the earthquake-prone and high-traffic waterways of the Java Sea and Malacca Strait, and instead traverses the deep Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea waters to ensure more stable connectivity. As the world’s reliance on underwater communication grows, SUBCO will remain at the forefront of network system security and resilience in critical subsea infrastructure.

Stay tuned for the next article in SUBCO’s ten-part series on submarine optimisation and deployment, where we get to grips with the techniques and technologies that are driving environmental sustainability in subsea cabling and connectivity.

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