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Anatomy of a Submarine Network: The Workhorses of the Internet

The fact of the matter is, there aren’t that many ways to get your data from point A to point B, especially when traveling long distances. Really, there are only three main ways: wires (phone, coax, and fiber optic) to send data over land, microwave and cellular systems to send data over the air, and submarine networks to span the sea.

The path of your data is intuitive; email, web browsing, and other data travel from your home to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) usually over phone wires, coaxial cable, cellular signals, or fiber optics. But, this “access network” is only the first step of the journey. Next, data travels from your ISP to a national or international network or network provider, and if you are requesting data from overseas, your data now takes a ride on one of the hundreds of submarine networks. 

The amazing part about all of this is the whole trip generally takes less than a second. And considering the first submarine transmission took 17 hours and 40 minutes, it is even more incredible! What’s astonishing is that 99% of the world’s internet traffic is now, at some point, put on a submarine network. So, since it’s hard to see these networks given they are often thousands of feet or meters under the water, we thought we’d take a quick look at how these networks are put together and mention some of the interesting facts and myths surrounding these internet workhorses.

Note: If you would like to use this infographic on your website, download the image or PDF and please link back to this post.

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