Telecommunications by Satellite and by Submarine Cables
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of international communications have not depended on satellites for a long time now: 99% are transmitted over submarine cables. The satellites are mainly used to provide communications to rural or remote areas. In fact, many regions which were covered by satellites until now, such as some African countries or small islands, are currently being cabled. Between the main geographical points around the world, tonnes of cables extend to form alternative circuits which provide continuous service in the event of natural disasters or when there is damage caused by humans. The image below shows the well-known interactive Greg’s Cable Map.
Skybox Imaging + Google
Meanwhile, Google is interested in providing Internet access to each part of the planet in which it does not yet exist, as its business is largely based on the number of users it has. The company recently bought Skybox Imaging, a company which, among other products, has developed and launched the smallest high resolution satellite in the world, which captures daily images and videos of our planet. Interacting with the website and seeing the images and the incredibly detailed information it provides is truly impressive.
World Bank Data on Internet Users
The World Bank website facilitates data on the number of Internet users from 1980 to 2013. The information is organised by country and can be consulted in three formats: table, map and graph.
Telecommunication Networks Against Espionage
When speaking about current telecommunications, we cannot forget technological espionage, in particular the Snowden scandal. A large number of private companies from various sectors collaborate, voluntarily or by obligation, with the NSA (United States National Security Agency) to assist in its massive cyber espionage programme. The leaks have prompted some governments and international organisations to develop their own telecommunications networks. According to the article “Vigilados por defecto” (Surveillance by Default – currently only available in Spanish) published by the Spanish Strategic Studies Institute (IEEE), “The vast majority of the 900,000 kilometres of submarine cables which cover the whole planet and enable our Internet connections have their incoming and outgoing points in the United Kingdom – where not only can the GCHQ (Global Communications Headquarters) monitor the flow of information, but they can also share it with the NSA – or on the East and West Coasts of the United States, where the Agency has infrastructures, capabilities or agreements for listening. Evidently, this means that these two countries can not only control the bulk – assumed to be more than 90% – of world data traffic, but also that they can use the resulting information to obtain the advantage in political, strategic, military, industrial or commercial areas.”
From the Telegraph to Broadband and Beyond
World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) took place last month, on 17th May. The date commemorates the signing of the first International Telegraph Agreement and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union. The aim of the celebration is to raise our awareness of the role of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) in society and the economy, as well as to reduce the digital breach in the world. In order to do this, the continued development of affordable and universally accessible broadband infrastructures is fundamental. Moreover, ICT must be able to use these in an innovative way to improve health, education and trade services, among other aspects. In the video below you can hear Hamadoun Touré, the Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the main United Nations agency specialising in ICT – with the message he sent for WTISD. Further below you can hear from Vint Cerf, considered to be the father of the Internet, who is currently working on expanding Internet access. These two videos bring our journey across the telecommunication maps of the 21st century to a close.