Fiber Optic Cables in Thawing Arctic

Sea cables have been an important method of global communication since the mid-19th century. The advent of fiber optic products in the 1990s made modern sea cabling more critical. Today this fiber optic network comprises some one million kilometers in total and carries almost all data transfers. According to a recent report, fiber optic network facilitates finance transfers of more than $10 trillion dollars every day. Beyond the significance to the global financial market, fiber cables are a matter of crucial for national security, because they transfer nearly all our global telecommunications data.

Fiber optic cable is the cleanest and fastest wide-area network available, and it can offer the highest capacity of any production network conduction. Fiber is made up of single or multiple fiber optic strands of glass, covered in a protective sheath. The capacity of a fiber optic strand is theoretically limitless and determined only by the performance of the electronics at either end. To date, there is enough fiber optic cable under the oceans to circle the earth 22 times, with the longest cable spanning 24,000 miles. Together the 550,000 miles of cable transmit 99% of international digital data.

The Arctic offers a unique environment for sea fiber cables due to its protection from damage from threats related to fisheries, anchors, earthquakes, and tsunamis. However, it should be noted, foreign policy agendas of some states means that fiber cables are at risk of purposeful interference. Melting ice and developments in fiber optic technology has prompted a range of feasibility studies into the reliability of a trans-Arctic sea fiber cable route. Scientists have predicted that the continued melting of Arctic sea ice could make the entire Northwest Passage ice-free by summers in the middle of this century. This will impact not only cable routes but shipping routes, allowing vessels to shave nearly one-third of the distance off journeys that would otherwise require a trip through the Panama Canal.

The trans-Arctic sea fiber cable can cut the distance between Asia and Europe by roughly 40 percent. Nowadays two Arctic routes have been touted:

  • The first route treks along the Northwest Passage, along Canada’s Arctic coastline. In late 2017 the first phase of the network was completed. The Arctic Fiber project will span 15,600 kilometers. It will feature optical amplifiers to boost signal strength every 50 to 100 kilometers and is expected to reduce latency between England and Japan from 230 milliseconds to 168 ms. The Canadian Arctic Fiber, through a partnership with Quintillion Networks, was established in 2009 to explore deploying fiber optic transmission systems through the Canadian Arctic.
  • The second route follows the Northern Sea Route along the Northeast Passage, hugging Russia’s coastline. Named ROTACS (Russian Optical Trans-Arctic Cable System), the route links London to Tokyo via branches in Russia and Beijing. It is expected to run 14,700 km along the Russian coast. In addition to reducing the latency between London and Tokyo, the fiber optic transmission can also help connect more isolated communities in the Arctic.

It is important that fiber cables will have to be placed up to 600 meters below the surface in some places to avoid icebergs that penetrate beneath the ocean floor.

Fiber optic transmissions deliver service on a level of quality that commercial organizations and industries recognize. In fact, the majority of these industry leaders have moved onto fiber optic technology as it continues to make its way throughout all areas of telecommunication. Fiber optic technology will continue to offer many more opportunities to provide users with affordable, more convenient, and higher data communication.

Optromix offers high-performance, high-quality specialty optical fiber cables that cover the range from UV (180nm) to the mid-infrared (18 μm) for such applications as environmental sensing, space and military applications, and industrial manufacturing.

If you would like to buy Optromix fiber cables, please contact us at

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