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Transatlantic communications cable

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A transatlantic telecommunications cable is a submarine communications cable connecting one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, each cable was a single wire. After mid-century, coaxial cable came into use, with amplifiers. Late in the 20th century, all cables installed used optical fiber as well as optical amplifiers, because distances range thousands of kilometers.


When the first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1858 by Cyrus West Field, it operated for only three weeks; a subsequent attempt in 1866 was more successful.[citation needed] On July 13, 1866 the cable laying ship Great Eastern sailed out of Valentia Island, Ireland and on July 27 landed at Heart's Content in Newfoundland, completing the first lasting connection across the Atlantic. It was active until 1965.[1]

Although a telephone cable was discussed starting in the 1920s,[2] to be practical it needed a number of technological advances which did not arrive until the 1940s.[citation needed] Starting in 1927, transatlantic telephone service was radio-based.[3]

TAT-1 (Transatlantic No. 1) was the first transatlantic telephone cable system. It was laid between Gallanach Bay, near Oban, and Clarenville, Newfoundland between 1955 and 1956 by the cable ship Monarch.[4] 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. Later, an additional three channels were added by use of C Carrier equipment. Time-assignment speech interpolation (TASI) was implemented on the TAT-1 cable in June 1960 and effectively increased the cable's capacity from 37 (out of 51 available channels) to 72 speech circuits. TAT-1 was finally retired in 1978. Later coaxial cables, installed through the 1970s, used transistors and had higher bandwidth. The Moscow–Washington hotline was initially connected through this system.

Current technology[edit]

All cables presently in service use fiber optic technology. Many cables terminate in Newfoundland and Ireland, which lie on the great circle route from London, UK to New York City, US.

There has 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 bandwidth – the 2012 generation of cables drop the transatlantic latency to under 60 milliseconds, according to Hibernia Atlantic, deploying such a cable that year.[5][6]

Some new cables are being announced on the South Atlantic: SACS (South Atlantic Cable System)[7] and SAex (South Atlantic Express).[8]

TAT cable routes[edit]

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 US.

Name In service Type Initial channels Final channels Western end Eastern end
TAT-1 1956–1978 Galvanic 36 51 Newfoundland Scotland
TAT-2 1959–1982 Galvanic 48 72 Newfoundland France
TAT-3 1963–1986 Galvanic 138 276 New Jersey England
TAT-4 1965–1987 Galvanic 138 345 New Jersey France
TAT-5 1970–1993 Galvanic 845 2,112 Rhode Island Spain
TAT-6 1976–1994 Galvanic 4,000 10,000 Rhode Island France
TAT-7 1978–1994 Galvanic 4,000 10,500 New Jersey England
TAT-8 1988–2002 Fiber-optic 40,000 New Jersey England, France
TAT-9 1992–2004 Fiber-optic 80,000 New Jersey, Nova Scotia Spain, France, England
TAT-10 1992–2003 Fiber-optic 2 × 565 Mbit/s US Germany, Netherlands
TAT-11 1993–2003 Fiber-optic 2 × 565 Mbit/s New Jersey France
TAT-12/13 1996–2008 Fiber-optic 12 × 2.5 Gbit/s US × 2 England, France
TAT-14 2001–2020 Fiber-optic 3.2 Tbit/s New Jersey × 2 England, France, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark
CANTAT-1 1961–1986 Galvanic 80 Newfoundland Scotland
CANTAT-2 1974–1992 Galvanic 1,840 Nova Scotia England
CANTAT-3 1994–2010 Fiber-optic 2 × 2.5 Gbit/s Nova Scotia Iceland, Faroe Islands, England, Denmark, Germany
PTAT-1 1989–2004 Fiber-optic 3 × 140 Mbit/s? New Jersey & Bermuda Ireland & England

Private cable routes[edit]

There are a number of private non-TAT cables.

Cable name Ready for service Cable length (km) Nominal capacity Latency (ms) Landing points Owner
Gemini (decommissioned) May 1998 under 100 ms north: Charlestown, US-RI; Oxwich Bay, GB-WLS; south: Manasquan, US-NJ; Porthcurno, GB-ENG Vodafone (originally Cable & Wireless)
AC-1 May 1998 14,301 km 120 Gbit/s 65 ms[6] Brookhaven, US-NY; Whitesands Bay, GB-ENG; Beverwijk, NL-NH; Sylt, DE-SH Lumen Technologies (originally Global Crossing)
Columbus III December 1999 9,833 km Hollywood, US-FL; Ponta Delgada (Azores), PT; Carcavelos, PT; Conil de la Frontera, ES-AN; Mazara del Vallo (Sicily), IT various telecom operators
Yellow/AC-2 September 2000 7,001 km 640 Gbit/s under 100 ms Bellport, US-NY; Bude, GB-ENG Lumen Technologies
Hibernia Atlantic April 2001 12,200 km 320 Gbit/s, upgraded to 10.16 Tbit/s[9] 59 ms[6] Lynn, US-MA; Herring Cove, CA-NS; Dublin, IE-L; Southport, GB-ENG; Coleraine, GB-NIR GTT Communications, Inc. (originally Hibernia Networks)
FLAG Atlantic June 2001 14,500 km under 100 ms Island Park, US-NY; Plerin, FR-BRE; Skewjack, GB-ENG; Northport, US-NY Global Cloud Xchange (Reliance Communications)
Tata TGN-Atlantic June 2001 13,000 km 5.1 Tbit/s under 100 ms Wall Township, US-NJ; Highbridge, GB-ENG Sold by Tyco to Tata Communications in 2005
Apollo February 2003 13,000 km 3.2 Tbit/s under 100 ms Manasquan, New Jersey, US-NJ; Lannion, FR-BRE; Bude, GB-ENG; Shirley, US-NY Vodafone (originally Cable & Wireless)[10]
Greenland Connect March 2009 4,780 km Milton, CA-NL; Aasiaat, GL-QA; Sisimiut, GL-QE; Maniitsoq, GL-QE; Nuuk, GL-SM; Qaqortoq, GL-KU; Landeyjar, IS TELE Greenland
Hibernia Express September 2015 4,600 km Halifax, CA-NS; Cork, IE-M; Brean, GB-ENG GTT Communications, Inc. (originally Hibernia Networks)
AEConnect (AEC-1) January 2016 5,522 km 4 × 10 Tbit/s (four strand 100 × 100 Gbit/s) 54 ms Shirley, US-NY; Killala, IE-C Aqua Comms
MAREA February 2018 6,600 km 160 Tbit/s Virginia Beach, US-VA; Bilbao, ES-PV Facebook (25 %), Microsoft (25 %), Telefónica (50 %)
Midgardsormen Q2 2019 (planned) 7,848 km Virginia Beach, US-VA; Blaabjerg, DK; Mo i Rana, NO Midgardsormen
Dunant September 2020 (live) 6,400km 250 Tbit/s Virginia Beach, US-VA; Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, FR Google[11][12]
Havfrue, including America Europe Connect-2 (AEC-2) branch December 2020 7,851km 108 Tbit/s New Jersey, US; Dublin, RoI; London, UK; Amsterdam, NL; Blaabjerg, DK; Kristiansand, NO AquaCommms, Bulk Infrastructure, Facebook and Google[13]
Grace Hopper September 2022 6,000km 352 Tbit/s New York, US; Bude, UK; Bilbao, Spain Google[14][15]
Amitié July 2023 6,600km 320 Tbit/s Lynn, Massachusetts, US; Bude, UK; Le Porge, France A consortium comprising Facebook, Microsoft, Aqua Comms, Vodafone (through Cable & Wireless Americas Systems), Orange[16]

South Atlantic cable routes[edit]

Cable name Ready for service Length Landing points Owner
Atlantis-2 February 2000 8,500 km Carcavelos, PT; El Médano, ES-CN; Praia, CV; Dakar, SN; Fortaleza, BR-CE; Las Toninas, AR-B various telecom operators
EllaLink Q2 2021 5,900 km Sines, PT; Fortaleza, BR-CE; Santos, BR-SP Telebras, IslaLink
SACS Q3 2018 6,165 km Fortaleza, BR-CE; Luanda, AO Angola Cables
SAIL Q4 2018 5,900 km Fortaleza, BR-CE; Kribi, CM Camtel, China Unicom

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Guarnieri, M. (March 2014). "The Conquest of the Atlantic". IEEE Industrial Electronics Magazine. 8 (1): 53–55/67. doi:10.1109/MIE.2014.2299492.
  2. ^ Elmore, Bart. "January 2017: From the Transatlantic Telephone to the iPhone". Origins. Ohio State University. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  3. ^ Short-Wave System for Transatlantic Telephony, by Polkinghorn and Schlaack BSTJ, 1935
  4. ^ "Being First Telephone Cable to Connect Hemispheres". Popular Mechanics, March 1954, p. 114.
  5. ^ "Building Networks for High-Speed Stock Trading - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. October 9, 2011. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "The $300m cable that will save traders milliseconds". The Daily Telegraph. London. September 11, 2011. Archived from the original on September 11, 2011. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
  7. ^ "Angola Cables to build the world's first submarine cable across the South Atlantic: Press Releases - NEC".
  8. ^ "16Tbit/s SAEx cable deal signed".
  9. ^ "Hibernia Offers Cross-Atlantic 40G". Light Reading. August 13, 2009.
  10. ^ "Submarine Cable Actions Taken PN". FCC. October 4, 2012.
  11. ^ Sawers, Paul (April 24, 2019). "How Google is building its huge subsea cable infrastructure". VentureBeat. Archived from the original on April 25, 2019. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  12. ^ Li, Abner (April 5, 2019). "Google's Dunant trans-Atlantic cable will deliver record-breaking capacity w/ first use of SDM tech". 9to5Google. Archived from the original on April 25, 2019. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  13. ^ Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox (January 16, 2018). "Aqua Comms plans Havfrue, transatlantic cable network funded by Facebook, Google". Data Center Dynamics.
  14. ^ Koley, Vikash (July 28, 2020). "Announcing the Grace Hopper subsea cable, linking the U.S., U.K. and Spain". Google Cloud.
  15. ^ Lardinois, Frederick (July 28, 2020). "Google is building a new private subsea cable between Europe and the US". TechCrunch.
  16. ^ "Orange landing the transatlantic Amitié cable". TotalTele. February 8, 2021.

External links[edit]