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Cable-Laying Boom Will Boost Internet Capacity 176

Barence writes "Dozens of new undersea internet cables are set to be laid over the next couple of years, providing a huge boost to worldwide capacity. The huge boom in internet video has led to doomsday scenarios of the internet running out of capacity. Although experts believe that there is abundant amounts of 'dark fibre' lying unused in oceans across the world, major telcos are pushing ahead with projects that will see at least 25 new cables laid by 2010, at a cost of $6.4bn."
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Cable-Laying Boom Will Boost Internet Capacity

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  • Domesday (Score:2, Funny)

    by Brumdail ( 1270932 )
    Not another Domesday scenario! I prefer cubes...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We don't need another hero. All we want is life beyond the bandwidth dome...

  • Dark Fibre? (Score:5, Funny)

    by hellfish006 ( 1000936 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:06AM (#24100415)
    i assume it amounts to 90% of the fibre on earth...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Every time I go um, "cable laying" the results are pretty god damned dark.....
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Finally a scientific explanation for the ever accelerating expansion of porn on the internet

  • by FlyingSquidStudios ( 1031284 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:08AM (#24100445) Homepage
    They'd better be anchor-proof.
  • More cable? (Score:2, Funny)

    by iminplaya ( 723125 )

    Anchors Aweigh!

    • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:13PM (#24102525) Homepage Journal
      "Anchors Aweigh" means that the anchor is free of the bottom.
      Your trusty Quartermaster logs the event, and the ship is legally underway (should paint be traded with another vessel, and a trip to the "Long Green Table" ensue).
      The command (in the US Navy, anyway) is "Let go the anchor", and the bosun trips the pelican hook (usually with a sledge hammer), a deafening roar ensues as the chain comes flying out of the chain locker, and everyone on the fo'c'sle has a religious experience.
      • I am sure you know, but for everyone else: bosun is a phonetic type spelling for Boatswains Mate and fo'c'sle is a phonetic type spelling for Forecastle. Those words are not pronounced according to the standard rules, which is why I am sure that you spelled them more phonetically for people.


        • "Bosun" and "fo'c'sle" are shibboleths meant to reveal the landlubber. Wouldn't want /.ers to arrive on a ship and look like a bunch of Windows users at the Ottawa Linux Symposium, would I?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:09AM (#24100457)

    The cables are predominantly set to be laid in areas such as Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East, which are currently underserved.

    So, in the Caribbean and Africa? Is the demand for video and other such growing traffic in huge demand there?

    It doesn't seem that it will really increase traffic throughput for the Eu and the US where this traffic has the most potential to grow.

    Am I wrong?

    • by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:12AM (#24100515) Journal

      With all the spying going on, the less traffic that has to go through the states, the better.

    • by menace3society ( 768451 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:03PM (#24101367)

      You might be wrong. We've already laid a ton of fiber down to serve Asia, North America, Europe. A lot of that is still unused.

      There's not so much fiber serving the Carribbean, the Middle East, and Africa now, but the capacity for demand is growing. Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain are using their oil wealth to build whole new cities that will compete, not with industrial cities like Delhi or Beijing, but with New York, London, Silicon Valleyâ"the places where money is made on ideas, not extractive resources or physical products. They are trying to build first-class universities too. They are going to demand top-notch informatics and telecom capabilities, and thanks to your boss's car, they have the cash to get it.

      Africa and the Caribbean are a bit different, but Egypt and South Africa are in good positions to make use of it. Some of the more stable countries (Morocco, Tanzania) could grow into it within a decade, and that's assuming that Lagos and Zimbabwe don't fix themselves up (I wouldn't hold your breath, but if it happened, they'd need fiber to sell oil/food/minerals). I suspect the Caribbean line is intended for Cuba, one the US ends its brain-dead embargo.

    • It doesn't seem that it will really increase traffic throughput for the Eu and the US where this traffic has the most potential to grow.

      Am I wrong?

      Kind of.

      In terms of absolute potential for growth, Africa and the Caribbean have more potential (per capita) since they are starting at a much lower base.

      They are poised to hit their existant 'cap' on volume much sooner than the US or the EU, where there is more ark fiber that can be tapped.

  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by Corpuscavernosa ( 996139 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:09AM (#24100459)
    I guess there's not much to say except 1) yay, the internet is not going to reach capacity and 2) now I won't have to worry about going back to magazines for pr0n. Much easier to clear your cache and history than finding a good wife/girlfriend/son proof hiding spot at the house.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What do you need to do that for? Just get your wife/girlfriend to watch it with you. Problem solved. They're just as horny as you are, they just hide it better. And... your son is going to find it no matter where you put it. Trust me.. been there, done that.

    • Much easier to clear your cache and history than finding a good wife...

      That's setting the bar rather high, isn't it?

      Almost anything is easier than finding a good wife.

  • by heatdeath ( 217147 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:10AM (#24100475)

    I guess it's early in the morning...

    Sigh. 'editors'.

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:11AM (#24100497)
    Anyone else not worried as the Telcoms have been playing the artificial scarcity bit for years?
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:11AM (#24100505)
    I don't care about more fiber in the oceans nearly as much as I care about fiber in the last mile to my house. So far living in North America doesn't have me watching BBC streaming videos yet.

    Of course, this does mean that ship anchors are less likely to take down countries than before.
    • by denis-The-menace ( 471988 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:39AM (#24100963)

      Even if you could, you'd be capped at 40GB/mo and get Copyright warnings in the email.

    • I think you care about this, too. The fiber you care about is not necessarily the last mile to your house; it's whatever the weakest link in the chain is. When connecting to a remote host in Europe, North America, or Japan, then it's probably the last mile to your house (incidentally, it's probably also the least-useful mile, since it can only send packets from your to the ISP, and vice-versa).

      But if you want to have a live peer-to-peer connection with a business contact in Dubai, or if you want to watch

    • Your blocked from watching bbc streaming video because your not in the UK.
      The technology is here your just not allowed access to it.

  • by CDMA_Demo ( 841347 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:13AM (#24100531) Homepage

    Dozens of new undersea internet cables are set to be laid

    Look, even cables get laid

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by oodaloop ( 1229816 )
      If all the undersea fiber optic cable were laid end to end...I wouldn't be a bit surprised.
    • Look, even cables get laid

      Does that make backhoes the unstable ex-girlfriend who slashes your tires and keys your car semi-annually?

  • by slashname3 ( 739398 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:13AM (#24100537)
    Who here really things the Internet is going to hit some capacity ceiling? Get over it. It won't happen. Did not happen to USENET back in the day and won't happen now.

    And when will the editors learn to read or at least use a spell checker?
  • Meh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snarfies ( 115214 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:13AM (#24100539) Homepage

    Not that laying all this undersea cabling will do anybody any good due to "last mile" crap.

    • Not that laying all this undersea cabling will do any American any good due to "last mile" crap.

      Fixed that for you.
      • by Tim C ( 15259 )

        No, the last mile over here in the UK can be pretty dire too - for example my "up to 8Mbps" connection generally actually reports a connection of around 2.5Mbps, and real-world throughput tends to cap out at around 250KBps (or around 2Mbps).

        I've had much better speeds at other addresses of course; the phone lines in my area are poor, and we're relatively far from the exchange.

  • I think we've all been through the various domesday scenarios: Biosphere II probably being the most well known. I guess there's not much to say about them except remember to bring some extra oxygen...

  • Dark Fiber (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daryen ( 1138567 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:15AM (#24100583)
    What is this dark fiber everyone keeps talking about?

    There is a Wikipedia Article [] about it, and a book [] with the title that seems largely unrelated. We all know there are many rumors about Google Buying It [].

    How much is there though? What kind of fiber is it? MMF [] or SMF? [] Also, if this fiber has been unused for years, it would have to be tested to make sure it doesn't have any major breaks in the lines.

    Depending on the type, location, amount, and condition of this fiber it could be a major asset... or not. I haven't been able to find any detailed information about it, I'm sure some of our Slashdot crowd working in networking must have a better idea than I?

    • Re:Dark Fiber (Score:4, Informative)

      by prelelat ( 201821 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:21AM (#24100679)

      Dark fiber is fiber optic that is unused. Fiber optic has light going through it. Unused it has no light going through it. No light means it's dark.

      So what they are talking about is lots of fiber optic line that is not being used for one reason or another(some have redundent lines that are used only if there is a break or other pointless reasons). I hope that helps.

      • Re:Dark Fiber (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RulerOf ( 975607 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:30PM (#24101799)

        So what they are talking about is lots of fiber optic line that is not being used for one reason or another

        The majority of dark fiber is owned by the Tier 1 ISP's, specifically, Level3. The fiber was laid by small independants during the .com bubble, and as those companies folded, telecoms bought it up for pennies on the dollar.

        They bought the fiber explicitly for the purpose of preventing competition from springing up, and, god forbid, offering broadband at a reasonable price. Now, they keep it dark so they can claim that their network capacity is near its limit and justify the incredibly draconian policy they have toward network growth.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by value_added ( 719364 )

        No light means it's dark.

        But that's only half the story.

        Because it's dark (dark is heavier than light, which is why it gets darker the deeper you go into the oceans), the cable sinks to the bottom. If the cables were full of light, they'd float to the top of the ocean where pirates could steal the bandwidth and possibly spread spam or even malware worldwide.

        The trick, of course is ensuring that "undersea cables" remain so. For that, anchors are used. They're sort of like firewall anchors, but bigger and

      • That's horsemanure.

        Dark fiber (AKA RTB*) is what keeps you regular.

        *RTB is roots, twigs, and berries

        What is currently happening is that we have a crapload of unused dark fiber, so our tubes are constipated. You can't drive a truck down a constipated tube.

        What we need to do is use more of the dark fiber. This will enable us to flush the tubes regularly, thereby freeing up the capacity for more youtube video downloads, AKA shit.

      • SONET rings have redundant fibers built into the spec []. I'm not sure if the extra fibers could be counted as "dark" or leased to other companies when not in use, though. But who knows how many SONET rings were built up in the late 90's, only to be torn down a few years later with all the extra fiber still laid?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Deadplant ( 212273 )

      Much of the dark fiber out there is in the form of unused strands in cable bundles.
      When a fiber line is run nobody runs a single pair of fiber stands, they run a cable with dozens to hundreds of strands in it.

      They then light one or two pairs with gear running at anything from 1 to 40 Gb/s

      The results is that there are many-many inter-city cables with 72 fiber strands each of which could carry (with dwdm harware) 160 x 40Gb/s channels but are only being used for a single 10Gb/s link.

      So a typical fiber cable h

    • The dark fibre under the ocean is SMF. MMF only has a useful range of a few hundred metres, beyond that, dispersion and loss come into play.

      There is another reason why all this fibre is lying around unlit.

      Its *expensive* to light undersea fibre.

      A cable with 40 strands may only have a dozen of the strands lit, and it's not just a matter of putting something at each end to light it. Every 200km or so there are optical amplifiers boosting the signal. For each fibre, these amplifiers cost hundreds of thousands

  • by Illbay ( 700081 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:22AM (#24100703) Journal
    ...are less about "undersea fiber-optic cable" availability, as far as I'm concerned, and much more about packet-throttling by the local ISP.
  • The extra interlinks will also relieve bottlenecks elsewhere. Since most Internet bandwidth now goes through the US, other links offloading from the segments tying the US together will also increase the spare capacity of those relieved internal links.

    The telcos are going to have to lie a lot harder to pretend that there's not enough US bandwidth to retain Network Neutrality, and instead start the Net Doublecharge on bandwidth already paid for at the other ends.

    • and instead start the Net Doublecharge on bandwidth already paid for at the other ends

      thats the reason they are trying to scuttle net neutrality in the first place. it shouldnt let happen.

  • You'd be surprised what a few dozen Mb/sec sustained can do to some of these countries in the middle of nowhere. Nevermind if there's an undersea cable break.

    This can't happen soon enough.
  • DUH! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <Dragon@gamers[ ] ['las' in gap]> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:46AM (#24101087) Homepage Journal

    This is not really a breakthrough.

    we've known this for years. And, the telcos and network owners keep telling us that bandwidth is scarce. It's not scarce. It's an infinitely scalable resource.

    lay more fiber add more routers, it gives you more bandwidth.

    They don't really want to pay for it. At this point, telcos and network owners are literally prohibiting progress on the Internet.

    • by chill ( 34294 )

      Bandwidth to where? How much is it for peerage? Where can I get a 100 MBps or better uplink to the Internet and how much will it cost? Running trunks from POP to POP doesn't help me.

      The last mile is the killer, because people don't like their streets dug up every few years to add capacity.

  • The huge boom in internet video has led to doomsday scenarios of the internet running out of capacity.

    So ... run QoS on the routers on each end?

    • The huge boom in internet video has led to doomsday scenarios of the internet running out of capacity.

      So ... run QoS on the routers on each end?

      QoS is arguably just a bodge to get around the problem of insufficient bandwidth. Good for private networks, not so good for the internet - network neutrality and all that...

  • Let's all sing together:

    "The last cable-laying boom was a scam; the last cable-laying boom was an enourmous scam. Who is Worldcom now?"

    Yes, Qwest, Global Crossing (which is/was based in Bermuda - shock!) and others were involved as well, but Worldcom was my personal favorite of the bunch.


  • Concept Conflation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Madball ( 1319269 )

    As usual, the "journalist" seems to be conflating two different issues.

    Yes, the last mile/local ISP is an issue for many people

    Yes, the world/teleco's/googles may need more cross-continent fiber in order to provide network resiliency, increase service to under-served markets, increase capacity on intercontinental traffic, or provide alternate routes for competitive reasons.

    Does solving one solve the other? NO.

  • Why bother spending all this money on building infrastructure when you can just use download caps and tiered pricing to keep usage down? Problem solved!
  • Oh please (Score:4, Interesting)

    by John Sokol ( 109591 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:41PM (#24101981) Homepage Journal

    I have been hearing this for year,
      but sorry there really is NO "doomsday scenarios of the internet running out of capacity" from video! I am really getting sick of hearing this.

    Digital video is all or nothing, meaning it will play or it will not play. If you can't get enough bandwidth you net nothing! It's not like analog TV where the signal just gets degraded a bit but you can still watch it, on the net you just can't get it to play at all.

    If it doesn't play most people will give up, get board and go away, back to there TV's or what ever they do and so the Internet doesn't die.

    It self regulates where just a certain percentage of video is too crappy to play and people give up, and some start ups can't make their cheap crappy ISP's work and go bust.

    It's not like everyone will just keep trying to use the video even when it's not working for them.
    They will back off.

    So far youtube hasn't brought down the Internet.

    There are also many architectures that allow a company like youtube to bypass much of the backbones and so they will also not effect the performance of the Internet as much as you might think. I was calling this distributed servers, now called content distribution networks, but basically, you don't put up one massive server in one place but many server as close to the views as possible minimizing the distance the video packets must travel. Thereby using a little of the Internet as possible. So even QoS and these
    cable-laying booms really aren't going to make any difference with video since most video doesn't go over International cables and can't use QoS unless your some large corporation paying for QoS on your H.323 Video Conferencing System.

    In the end, any crying "doomsday scenarios" is like crying the sky is falling, they are just trying to grab headlines and should be treated like the idiots they are.

    John L. Sokol

    • by TheSync ( 5291 ) *

      So far youtube hasn't brought down the Internet.

      Live watching of video isn't the big bandwidth threat - it is video file sharing, where you might leave your torrent downloading all night, (you and everyone else in the country ;)

      • I really think SPAM is a far greater threat, but I love torrent and P2P.

        I feel the greater problem is ISP's selling me 1Megabit per second then getting upset with how I choose to use it.

        I buy X Mbps and want to push max bandwidth in or out 24/7/365 I should be able to if unless they sold me some contract for less.
        If I choose to stream video in or out, or download P2P or serve web pages or craw web sites or what ever, I don't see it as any of their business what I choose to do with it.

        Imagine if my e

  • I can't comment on the new Cable being laid across Africa or the Middle east, but I have been following the situation in the Caribbean for a while. It really has taken off, with residential speeds in some countries going from 256kbps, to 2Mbps, to 6Mbps (at the same pricepoint) within the span for just a couple months. If you want a cool graphic showing the new fiber connections being made in the region, click the link below: [] Most of the reason for this happens to be in the "lucky" po
  • Numbers don't add up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Beefpatrol ( 1080553 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:16PM (#24102573)

    I used to work for a company that was attempting to manufacture fiber-based AWG (Arrayed Waveguide Grating) devices back in about 2000. At that time, the fraction of fiber in the ground that was dark was thought to be about 99%. The devices we were testing were capable of multiplexing 16 channels together on to one fiber. The standard speed for a fiber link over single mode fiber is 2.5 Gbit/s, and a fiber link requires a pair of fibers, (for bi-directional traffic.. I suppose if you only wanted to send data one way, you could use a single one.) At that time, there were multiple competitors that had 40 channel devices based on some different technologies. When I stopped paying attention to what was available, 160 channel devices were being talked about and 80 channel devices were on the market. The cost of one of these AWGs was about $20k, (to buy as a customer, not the cost of production), and they have since come down in price by a large amount. You would need one on each end of the fiber. If we assume that 80 channel devices are available, and 1% of the fiber in the ground (the portion that was used) was 1 pair, then there were at least 8000 2.5 Gbit/s channels available in whatever segment of the network contained "99% dark fiber".

    I haven't been able, in the last few minutes, to find stats on current backbone traffic levels, but I seriously doubt that the amount of potential long-haul fiber capacity is the reason for laying these cables. The only valid reasons I can see are that the existing ones are owned/controlled by entities that aren't cooperating or utilizing their cables very well or that redundancy is desired. The article states that Google is planning on running a cable from the US to Japan. I have to assume that this is more because the owners of existing cables are not cooperating. This might be the start of investment in a highly fractured network which does not have the redundancy that the internet was originally designed to provide.

    • This might be the start of investment in a highly fractured network which does not have the redundancy that the internet was originally designed to provide.

      thats what happens when you let monopolistic, politically manipulative corporations like at&t and similar to run critical infrastructure - you end up having to lay your own.

  • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:34PM (#24102837) Journal
    See the Pipe International blog [] about the cable they are laying between Australia and Guam. There's tons of detail in here for any sort of geek- stuff on the ships, sonar and mapping of the seabed, how modern cables amplify signals, details on the buildings that house both ends and tons more.

    One of the oddest blogs out there, but strangely compelling.

  • experts believe that there is abundant amounts of 'dark fibre' lying unused in oceans across the world
    Excuse me, but if they don't know and are guessing, what part of that makes them an expert? I guess techincally they could be paid for their opinion, but a more proper term here would be "soothsayer" or "mystic". There are people who know these things; I think the author was just too lazy to write a real article. Fluff piece? Yes.

  • I have to go to the supermarket, otherwise the doomsday scenario of a sandwich-less abode might come to pass.

    On the way, I will need to buy gas to avoid the doomsday scenario of running out.

    I hope I have avoided the doomsday scenario of appearing melodramatic.

  • Anyone else here used to use "laying cable" as a euphemism for taking a dump? (Which is a euphemism for defecation, for the non-native English speakers here.) If so, you'll probably share my surprise that such an increase in activity or "boom", if you will, could boost internet capacity.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @02:30PM (#24103663)
    Early this year Pakistan, Iran and parts of the mid-east lost international broadband when one or more undrseas cables were cut. It was unclear weather it was a natural disaster, saboage or industrial accident. Of course, many countries blamed their historic enemies for the alleged sabotage including the world's favorite Devil- the USA.

    More fiber means more redundancy. But there are still vulnerable chokepoints.
  • Does supplying more bandwidth to the Caribbean mean that the MPAA will have to start trying to prevent Pirates of the Caribbean from being downloaded illegally by pirates in the Caribbean?
  • by the_olo ( 160789 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @03:19PM (#24104423) Homepage

    It would be interesting to know, how much extra length the oceanic floor cables get in order to account for plate tectonics [] (more specifically for divergent boundaries, like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge or East Pacific Rise?

    Of course, the typical speed of plate movement being no more than 10 cm / year, I expect an answer to be in the order of thousands of years...

  • Given the $55 Verizon just charged me for making 18 minutes of calls to the UK, I'm not surprised they might see this as a cash cow.

    (I'm unlikely to call overseas again soon, or I'd definitely be looking at cheaper methods.)

  • Ok... So there is more capacity. But, if you ask an ISP, there is *ALWAYS* a critical shortage that they use to justify exhorbitant rate increases, a decrease in shortage, throttling, packet spoofing, service interruptions, false advertising ("unlimited" -this and that), and use PUBLIC money for PRIVATE gain ( i.e. using public funds to build something and then charge the public to use it).

    Anyways, public funds are used to fud more advertising and bottom lines, rather than being used to actually USE lines.

  • More cables going into oceans could be a great thing for an idea I have on oceanic internet cables.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer