Diminishing sea ice in the Arctic could be a boon for international trade — both for heavy ships using the Northwest Passage, and now for speedier telecommunications via new fiber-optic cables. In August, companies will start construction on the first deep sea cables to cross the Arctic Ocean.
On Saturday, a ship waiting to enter the Kenyan port city of Mombasa wandered into a restricted area and dropped its anchor, inadvertently severing a major undersea Internet and phone link to East Africa. This kind of thing happens from time to time, but Saturday's incident represents a particular stroke of bad timing. The cable severed was already overworked, rerouting data from three other cables that were accidentally severed a week prior in the Red Sea. All said, these fiber-optic channels are the backbone of East Africa's telecommunications infrastructure. Now one single undersea fiber-optic link is left to carry the entire load for all of East Africa, slowing internet connections in Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Sudan by 20 percent until repairs are made, a process that could take weeks.
Before plugging into the high-capacity subsea fiber optic network three years ago, most Internet traffic in East Africa moved through expensive satellite connections or painfully slow telephone lines. Since then economies in the region have come to rely on their increased connectivity, so this weekend's incident comes dangerously close to spelling a small economic disaster. It also raises a larger question: Why, when global economies and day-to-day life are so reliant on access to the Internet, are we still relying on these seemingly vulnerable undersea cables, these accident-prone physical "tubes" connecting continents across the oceans? Why, in a world that's increasingly wireless, are we still so wired? Isn't there a better way to connect the globe?
By Stewart WolpinPosted 02.23.2012 at 11:20 am 7 Comments
In late 2010, Verizon rolled out its 4G LTE network, which offers data speeds 10 times as fast as 3G networks. But as mobile data traffic continues to grow—experts anticipate that it will increase 26-fold in the next three years—it's unlikely that any network will be able to keep up. Fortunately, something else is set to happen over the next three years: Wi-Fi could become as ubiquitous and easy to access as cellular is now.
Finally, someone has reached fiber optic speeds so fast we can’t even think of how they could possibly be useful. Two separate research teams using different methods have topped the 100 terabits per second mark through a single optical fiber. That’s enough data flow to download three seamless months worth of HD video in a single second.
The speed of light dictates a lot of things in the realm of physics (like the upper limit of the speed of anything), and now it's dictating how and where financial institutions do their trading. High-frequency trading that leverages small price differences in the price of a financial instrument trading on two geographically removed markets relies on executing trades extremely quickly, and latencies in fiber optic networks can create competitive advantages and disadvantages.
In a disaster, cell phones are not even as useful as the antiquated land line -- towers might topple, and service may jam as people overload the system with calls. Australian researchers tested a new system last week that aims to solve this problem, as well as introduce cell phone coverage to remote areas. It essentially uses cell phone swarms, enabling regular mobile phones to make and receive calls without cell towers or satellites.
In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama talked a lot about the need to upgrade our country's infrastructure, from power plants to railroads, both to create jobs and to improve efficiency. He wasn't kidding: We lose an average of seven billion gallons of water a day to leaks in the system. Power interruptions cost the economy about $79 billion annually. And we all remember the Minneapolis bridge collapse, but up to a quarter of all the bridges in the country are in need of attention.
A remotely-operated undersea robot that clears trenches to bury pipelines and cables
By Gregory MonePosted 04.03.2008 at 10:18 am 0 Comments
One of the world's biggest underwater robots, the new UT-1 Ultra Trencher weighs 60 tons on land, stands 18 feet tall, and measures nearly 26 feet wide. The remote-controlled Ultra Trencher can also rumble along at 2 to 3 knots, but its main job is cutting trenches for oil pipelines or telecommunications cables.
U.K. regulatory agency approves a system that would enable mobile phone use on airplanes
By Gregory MonePosted 04.01.2008 at 1:06 pm 1 Comment
European travelers may soon have a chance to chat away on their own phones while in flight. For the new system to work, planes would be outfitted with small mobile base stations known as pico cells. The cells would be switched off during take-off, and turned on once the planes reach a given altitude, which would be a minimum of 3,000 meters. Phone signals would be routed to the mobile base stations, which would in turn dispatch signals to ground-based networks through a satellite link.