Google reinforces undersea cables after shark attacks

The Forest Dead Shark

Google is going to great lengths to reinforce some of the world’s undersea data cables after a series of shark attacks, a product manager has revealed.

The fibre optic cables, which carry internet traffic around the world, are protected by a series of layers to protect against impact and from movement that could break the glass fibres.

Showing video of a shark biting a cable during an attack, a cloud product manager said that Google is working with partner companies on cables across the pacific to reinforce them with a Kevlar-like matting to prevent damage. Underwater surveillance video shows a confused shark biting down on a cable.

Older copper cables have not seen the same problem, and it has been speculated that sharks are attracted to the magnetic field created by the high voltage carried through the cables, which resembles those created by by fish.

Fibre optic cables carry data across continents, in this case across the pacific, and are the backbone of the internet. Each cable is made of many individual optical fibres, which are delicate but can transmit data at up to around 1 Gigabit per second or around 100 times faster than copper cables.

Each fibre cable requires power to be sent along the same line for optical repeaters that are placed along the cable amplifying the signal at set distances, typically 100km.

Most cables have shielding to specifically prevent electrical transmission outside of the protective layers, although whether this shielding prevents all electrical and magnetic fields from expanding beyond the cable is unknown.

Google is likely not the only company that suffers from shark attacks and has to spend large amounts to protect their undersea infrastructure. Routes across the atlantic require more than 50 repairs a year, broken by a range of things including fishing trawlers, anchors, earthquakes and water pressure at depth.

The search company recently announced that it was part of a six-company consortium planning a new high-speed cable connecting the US to Japan, to speed communications between the US and Asia.

Google did not comment on the story.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 14th August 2014 15.49 Europe/London

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