Transatlantic communications cable
When the first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1858 by businessman Cyrus West Field, it operated for only three weeks; subsequent attempts in 1865 and 1866 were more successful. Although a telephone cable was discussed starting in the 1920s, to be practical it needed a number of technological advances which did not arrive until the 1940s. Starting in 1927, transatlantic telephone service was radio-based.
TAT-1 (Transatlantic No. 1) was the first transatlantic telephone cable system. It was laid between Gallanach Bay, near Oban, Scotland and Clarenville, Newfoundland between 1955 and 1956 by the cable ship Monarch. It was inaugurated on September 25, 1956, initially carrying 36 telephone channels. In the first 24 hours of public service there were 588 London–U.S. calls and 119 from London to Canada. The capacity of the cable was soon increased to 48 channels. TAT-1 was finally retired in 1978. Later coaxial cables, installed through the 1970s, used transistors and had higher bandwidth.
All modern cables use fiber optic technology. Most such cables follow the great circle route from London, UK to New York City, USA because of the high-speed requirements of international financial transactions. Financial trading firms spend billions of dollars annually on high speed fiber optic communications to get an edge on trading.
This route provides convenient well-supported landings in Canada near Halifax (Nova Scotia), Moncton (New Brunswick), or St. John's (Newfoundland and Labrador), and in Iceland, Belfast (Northern Ireland) or Dublin (Ireland). Many cables are monitored and controlled from such central locations rather than from the endpoints, for quicker response to problems, and because it is cheaper to hire qualified people in these less expensive locations. Iceland, furthermore, has significant advantages for communications companies as they are effectively immune from defamation lawsuits for disseminating any adverse information about public events or companies or figures, which is a key driver of day trading and arbitrage activity. Such intermediary points on the great circle route are expected to play an increasingly prominent role in these activities, if only because trading signals originating there reach both London and New York faster than any signal originating in one centre trying to reach the other.
There have been a succession of newer transatlantic cable systems. All recent systems have used fiber optic transmission, and a self-healing ring topology. Late in the 20th century, communications satellites lost most of their North Atlantic telephone traffic to these low cost, high capacity, low latency cables. This advantage only increases over time as tighter cables provide higher speed – the 2012 generation of cables drop the transatlantic latency to under 60 milliseconds, according to Hibernia Atlantic, deploying such a cable that year.
TAT cable routes
The TAT series of cables constitute a large percentage of all North Atlantic cables. All TAT cables are joint ventures between a number of telecommunications companies, e.g. British Telecom. CANTAT cables terminate in Canada rather than in the USA.
|Name||In service||Type||Initial channels||Final channels||Western end||Eastern end|
|TAT-3||1963–1986||Galvanic||138||276||New Jersey||United Kingdom|
|TAT-7||1978–1994||Galvanic||4,000||10,500||New Jersey||United Kingdom|
|TAT-8||1988–2002||Fiber-optic||40,000||–||USA||United Kingdom, France|
|TAT-9||1992–2004||Fiber-optic||80,000||–||USA, Nova Scotia||Spain, France, United Kingdom|
|TAT-10||1992–2003||Fiber-optic||2 × 565 Mbit/s||–||USA||Germany|
|TAT-11||1993–2003||Fiber-optic||2 × 565 Mbit/s||–||USA||France|
|TAT-12/13||1996–2008||Fiber-optic||12 × 2.5 Gbit/s||–||USA × 2||United Kingdom, France|
|TAT-14||2000–||Fiber-optic||3.2 Tbit/s||–||USA × 2||United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark|
|CANTAT-2||1974–1992||Galvanic||1,840||–||Nova Scotia||United Kingdom|
|CANTAT-3||1994–2010||Fiber-optic||2 × 2.5 Gbit/s||Nova Scotia||Iceland, Faroe Islands, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany|
|PTAT-1||1989–2004||Fiber-optic||3 × 140 Mbit/s?||New Jersey & Bermuda||Ireland & United Kingdom|
Private cable routes
There are a number of private non-TAT cables.
|Cable name||Date(s)||Nominal capacity||Latency (ms)||Landings||Owner|
|Gemini (decommissioned)||1998||Under 100 ms||Vodafone (originally Cable & Wireless)|
|Apollo||2002||3.2 Tbit/s||Under 100 ms||Vodafone/Alcatel-Lucent (originally Cable & Wireless)|
|AC-1||1998||120 Gbit/s||65 ms||Level 3 Communications (originally Global Crossing)|
|Yellow/AC-2||2000||640 Gbit/s||Under 100 ms||Level 3 Communications|
|FLAG Atlantic||2000||Under 100 ms||Reliance Communications|
|VSNL Transatlantic||2001||5.1 Tbit/s||Under 100 ms||Sold by Tyco to VSNL in 2005|
|Hibernia Atlantic||2001||320 Gbit/s, upgraded to 10.16 Tbit/s||Under 70 ms||CVC Acquisition Company|
|Emerald Express||2014 (scheduled)||4 × 10 Tbit/s (four strand 100 × 100 Gbit/s)||54 ms||Moncton, St. John's, Iceland, Belfast, Dublin, Shirley, NY||Emerald Atlantis|
|Hibernia Atlantic||2012 (scheduled)||Unknown (four strand)||59 ms||Herring Cove (near Halifax, Canada)||CVC Acquisition Company|
- Short-Wave System for Transatlantic Telephony, by Polkinghorn and Schlaack BSTJ, 1935
- "Being First Telephone Cable to Connect Hemispheres" Popular Mechanics, March 1954, p. 114.
- Post (2011-10-09). "Building Networks for High-Speed Stock Trading - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
- "The $300m cable that will save traders milliseconds". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
- "Submarine Cable Actions Taken PN". FCC. October 4, 2012.
- "Hibernia Offers Cross-Atlantic 40G". Light Reading. August 13, 2009.
- "About Us | Emerald Networks". Emerald Networks. February 14, 2013.
- Hayes, Jeremiah (September 2008). "A history of transatlantic cables". IEEE Communications 46 (9): 42–48. doi:10.1109/MCOM.2008.4623705.
- Aronsson's Telecom History Timeline
- Timeline of Submarine Communications Cables, 1850–2008
- Submarine Cable Landings Worldwide