A few days ago, Google announced that it was investing in a $300 million undersea fiber optical cable system called FASTER. The FASTER cable system will offer much higher broadband speeds for countries in Asia. However, FASTER will need extra protection because of shark attacks (yes, you read that right).
At the Cloud Roadshow event in Boston, Google Product Manager Dan Belcher said that the cables are being wrapped in Kevlar-like material to prevent shark bites from damaging the line. Here is a image of a shark attempting to eat some undersea fiber optic cables, via NetworkWorld:
Above Image clearly show sharks biting fibre optic cables, perhaps because they mistake electromagnetic waves for bioelectric fields that surround schools of fish.
Shark attacks on undersea data cables are fairly common. A New York Times article from 1987 said the first piece of evidence related to a shark attacking a cable was discovered in an experimental line off the Canary Islands 29 years ago. James M. Barrett, a former deputy director of international engineering for AT&T, said that there were 55,000 or 60,000 miles of old undersea cable made out of copper that did not have a single case of shark biting, meaning sharks prefer to snack on fiber optic cables specifically. It is believed that the electrical current in the fiber-optic lines attract the sharks, triggering a feeding reflex. Sharks are known to have volt sensors in their mouths to find prey so the optical fiber cables may “confuse” them into thinking it is food.
Dr. Chris Lowe, one of the founders of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach believes that sharks attack the cables for a different reason. He told Wired that sharks may just be curious about the cables. “If you had just a piece of plastic out there shaped like a cable, there’s a good chance they’d bite that too,” said Dr. Lowe in the interview. The undersea cables are also susceptible to damage by ship anchors and earthquakes.
Aside from FASTER, Google invested in two other undersea cable systems: UNITY and SJC (South-East Asia Japan Cable). In fact, Google owns over 100,000 miles of private fiber optic routes around the world. Some of these cables are as thin as a garden hose.
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