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First Arctic Submarine Fibre Optic Undersea Cable to Boost UK Internet

Thursday, Mar 22nd, 2012 (8:00 am) - Score 2,155

A new Russian Optical Trans-Arctic Submarine Cable System (ROTACS) from the Polarnet Project, which will boost international broadband internet connectivity to the UK, is about to become the first submarine fibre optic cable to cross the Arctic Ocean with a run between London and Japan / China that crosses the coast of Northern Europe and Russia.

Construction of the new fibre, which uses the latest developments in optical transmission technology (e.g. 100Gbps), is due to commence in August 2012 and has only been made possible by the growing retreat of sea ice. But the trans-Arctic geographic route is also extremely treacherous and Engineers are likely to face many challenges, such as the ever present danger of ship sinking icebergs. This will require specially adapted cable ships.

At the same time ROTACS will be less susceptible to damage, such as cable cuts caused by fishing trawlers and ships dragging their anchors. This will be less of an issue for the new cable because few ships could brave the ice packed Arctic waters. On the other hand if a problem does occur then conceivably the cable might be significantly harder to reach and repair.

Meanwhile two further fibre optic cables (Arctic Fibre and Arctic Link) are planned through the North-West Passage (above North America), which will improve internet connectivity between the UK and Canada / USA / Asia. The Arctic Fibre project won’t get started until at least Q3-2013, while Arctic Link expects to begin work in 2014. The North-West Passage is typically most accessible between late August and early October.

Submarine cable systems carry around 98% of all international Internet traffic.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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