An Unlikely Threat to Google's Domination: Sharks

An Unlikely Threat to Google's Domination: Sharks
There is a new threat to Google fibre-optic cables at the ocean floor: sharks.
The company has invested in two major undersea cables connecting the Western US to Asia, and a third cable that extends Google's network within Asia, but its network has been under attack from sharks, which can detect magnetic fields. Sharks have miniature volt sensors in their mouths that they use to detect prey, and undersea fibre cables have become an unlikely victim.

(Also see: Google, Asian Telecom Firms to Build $300 Million Undersea Cable to Japan)

"Unlike short-haul terrestrial fiber cables or old copper cables where the fiber did not emit noticeable fields, undersea cables must carry high voltage power to the undersea repeaters, which result in both electric and magnetic fields around and along the cable ... Some sharks mistaken the electric fields for distressed fish and attempt to feed on the cable," a report studying the phenomenon has noted.

"Just a little bite is enough to get through the jacket and damage the fibres," Chris Lowe, a professor who runs shark lab at California State University, Long Beach, was quoted as saying.

Google, however, ensures its cable is sheathed in a Kevlar-like protective coating to keep the sharks from chomping through the line, Network World reported, quoting Google product manager Dan Belcher from a Google marketing event in Boston last week.

Since fiber is made of fragile glass, its casing is built to protect it from breaking. A fiber-optic cable often includes (listed from the outer layer inward): An outer polyurethane jacket, a protective layer (made from a material like kevlar), a plastic coating (in different colors, so technicians can follow the path of each strand), and enclosed in all of these, a glass fiber.

At the event, Belcher also played a video of a shark attempting to eat some undersea fiber optic cables.

The massive, worldwide system of undersea fibre-optic cables is a vital link to facilitate Internet and other telecom services across the world.In the 1980s, a deep-ocean cable was reportedly cut by crocodile sharks four times.

Written with inputs from IANS


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