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Boat floating in front of a marina

UltraMAP. Our Obsession.

Just the other day I saw one of those rubber band balls that people make. It was the size of a cricket ball. It sat silent and still on a desk in the office I was visiting.

UltraMAP. Our Obsession.

I paused and stared. And people no doubt paused and stared at me as I did. I couldn’t help thinking how tricky it would be to track and understand exactly how each strip of rubber lay and interacted with every other strip of rubber. Particularly when rubber bands were continually added and taken away willy nilly.

Then I remembered. That’s what I do for a living. That’s our obsession. Damn!

Being UltraMAP

What UltraMAP does is track and protect subsea cables that no one can actually see, yet hundreds of millions of people rely on each day. It’s quite a responsibility. Our software has to work continually to track complex and constantly changing networks. Just like the rubber band cricket ball – new things come; old things go.

That’s why every day is a day for learning. After all, we can only manage what we know. So we try hard to be as prepared as possible for new things. Here is a brief introduction to our world.

Welcome To Our World

As of early 2018, there were approximately 448 submarine cables in service around the world. That’s 1.2 million km. It changes daily. A cable between Ireland in the UK is considered ‘short’ at 131km. The Asia America Gateway cable is considered ‘long’ at 20,000km.

Modern submarine cables use fibre-optic technology. This is glass fibres wrapped in layers of plastic and sometimes steel wire for protection. The cables are the size of a garden hose. Each filaments is as thin as one human hair. Cables near shorelines are buried under the seabed and often have extra protection as they’re more vulnerable to vessel damage. Almost all of the world’s countries that have a coastline are connected to a submarine cable.

The world’s active and planned cables are mapped, though submarine cable paths don’t show the exact route taken by the cables. They’re stylised. Cables were traditionally owned by telecom carriers but these days content providers such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon are major investors in new cable. Everyone uses cable. Telecom carriers, mobile operators, multinational corporations, governments, content providers, and research institutions all rely on submarine cables to send data around the world. Even you use cables. When using your mobile phone, the signal is only carried wirelessly from your phone to the nearest cell tower. From there, the data will be carried over terrestrial and subsea fiber-optic cables.

Satellites are a great alternative option for certain applications. However, on a bit-for-bit basis, there’s just no beating fiber-optic cables. Cables can carry far more data at far less cost than satellites. Cables are here to stay. Both Facebook and Google are continuing to build new submarine cables, such as the planned Pacific Light Cable Network in which they are both investors.

Cables get broken. On average, there are over 100 each year. Accidents like fishing vessels and ships dragging anchors account for two-thirds of all cable faults. Earthquakes also contribute to damage.

Our World is Your World

If you’ve read this far you now know some of the key fundamentals of our world. But perhaps the most telling fact is that our world is your world too.

The complexity of our world – just like the rubber band cricket ball – is hard to visualise. Cables affect us all. All 1.2 Million km (and growing) of them.

Running a truly global business is both a thrill and a privilege. This article shows you just a little of what we have to contend with. And at the very least you now know some pretty impressive stuff for obscure pub quizzes. Thanks for reading.

SOURCE: Thank you to

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