Google and Facebook are invested in dozens of submarine internet cable projects around the world.
The laying of these cables requires months of preparation and specialized ships take them to sea.
Once laid, the cables can carry huge amounts of internet data around the world.
Google and Facebook have both laid thousands of miles of cables along the seabed, stretching between continents, to carry the Internet around the world.
Often times, the two tech giants invest in cable projects with a consortium of other companies, although Google has five private cable projects underway.
In total, Google is invested in 19 cable projects around the world.
Facebook is invested in two currently active cables. It is involved in five other cable projects currently under construction, a spokesperson said.
Here’s how companies lay cables on the ocean floor.
First, companies must plan the route they want the cable to take.
Jayne Stowell, strategic negotiator for global infrastructure at Google, told Insider that route planning can take up to a year.
A Facebook spokesperson told Insider it is conducting a bathymetric and geophysical survey along its planned route, which allows it to plan down to the meter.
It does this by sending ships equipped with sonar to map the seabed and look for hazards such as strong currents, underwater landslides, bombs or unexploded mines.
The cable itself is about the thickness of a garden hose, Stowell said.
The cables are wrapped in a copper box for electrical conduction.
“A plastic and steel jacket is then added to waterproof the cable and help it withstand potentially adverse ocean conditions such as strong currents, earthquakes or interference from trawlers,” Stowell said.
For Facebook’s 2Africa cable, it uses aluminum rather than copper, which it says will lower manufacturing costs and allow longer cables.
2Africa is being laid across the continent and is 37,000 kilometers long, barely shorter than the circumference of the Earth.
Once the route has been mapped out and the cable has been completed, it is time to load the cable onto a specialized laying vessel.
Google’s Stowell said the company uses a fleet of 50 to 55 specialist laying vessels, with a capacity of up to 100 crew. Simply loading the cable onto the ship can take four weeks, she said.
Facebook said its ships typically need a crew of 30 to 50 people.
The ship leaves the port, rolling the cable behind it. Once in deeper water, he deploys an underwater plow to dig a trench along the seabed in which he lays the cable.
“The natural movement of the wave action will then cover the cable once the vessel moves forward,” Stowell said.
“An ocean plow doesn’t look too much like a plow a farmer could use in a field, except that it’s much taller – roughly the height of a two-story building,” Stowell said.
The plow is only used at depths of 1,000 to 1,500 meters (3,281 to 4,921 feet), Stowell added.
“This is where it is necessary to protect the cable from potential damage caused by other users of the seabed – most often bottom trawlers or ship anchors that are thrown into the sea during a storm.” , said Stowell.
A cable is quite safe on the high seas and does not need to be buried or shielded, she added.
For longer cables, Stowell said Google is also installing a device called an amplifier every 100 meters (328 feet) to boost the signal and keep the data moving.
“Although fiber optic cables are made of the purest glass, over long distances the intensity of a beam of light begins to weaken,” she said.
Amplifiers help restore light to its original intensity.
When the egg-laying vessel reaches its final destination, it is unable to approach shore.
Buoys are used to float the cable to the surface and it is guided into position by divers, jet skis and smaller boats.
Finally, the cable is pulled across the beach to a ready-made trench, where it is connected to a beach manhole, a buried container where the submarine cable is connected to a land cable – which in turn connects to a cable station.
These cables are capable of channeling an enormous amount of data approximately every second.
Stowell said Google’s Grace Hopper cable – which landed in the UK earlier this week – is set to channel 340 terabytes of data per second, which would mean 17.5 million people could stream 4K video in same time.
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