Whilst the region is excited about the advent
of super-fast broadband, it is interesting to note what is happening behind the
scenes to ensure the experience is what we expect it to be. Whilst the sound of
downloading at speeds of 100Mbps is very exciting to anyone who uses the
Internet at all, the connection speeds able to be achieved rely on the rest of
the Internet having the ability to deliver data at the required speeds.

When organisations are investing in server
farms and connections to the Internet they will need to factor in the
additional capability of their end users. On a much bigger picture, moving data
among continents can also create bottlenecks that end users experience.
Satellites may seem like an answer but given geostationary satellites orbit at
35,786km above the earth the two-way nature of Internet traffic does not work
so well in an environment with high latency.

The ’Faster Consortium’ has just unveiled its
latest investment in ensuring the world can communicate. The consortium
announced the highest-capacity undersea cable built to date. It will provide 60
terabits per second (Tbps) bandwidth between the United States and Japan. The
major player in the Faster Consortium is Google and they join other major
multi-nationals developing undersea cables. Microsoft and Facebook announced
last month a joint effort to build another cable across the Atlantic. The
‘Marea’ system will offer speeds of 160Tbps with construction to start later
this year. These speeds are a far cry from Google’s first investment in
undersea cable systems. In 2010 the trans-Pacific Unity cable went online with
what seemed like a massive 7.68Tbps capacity.

Antarctica is the poor cousin in the world of
communications. It is the only continent yet to be reached by a submarine telecommunications
cable. All data and communication must be relayed to the rest of the world via
satellite links. The low population of the continent combined with the extreme
weather conditions have resulted in no feasible solution for this continent. At
least no feasible solution from an economic perspective.

Luckily, Australia has sixteen external
connections to the rest of the world but to keep delivering on the NBN promise,
I can see more submarine cabling being performed in the near future. Once the NBN
rollout has been completed, maybe there will be some work for these installers
manning the ships that roll out the cabling across the oceans of the world.

Mathew Dickerson

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