November 14, 2014
Today, information flows across the globe as easily as it flows across the office. This information might come from New York, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, or Cape Town and arrive not from satellites but from cables that sit on the ocean floor. The Earth’s continents are connected with a web of undersea fiber optic cables that join the world’s major population centers. Anyone who surfs the Internet, makes overseas calls, or simply texts friends on other continents uses these undersea fiber optic cables.
Undersea cables have been providing global connectivity for nearly 150 years. The first successful transatlantic telegraph cable connected North America to Europe and went into service in 1866, about 30 years after the invention of the telegraph. Nearly 90 years after that first telegraph cable was installed, the first transatlantic telephone cable was installed. In 1956, the TAT system (transatlantic telephone cable) went into service with 36 telephone circuits between Newfoundland and Scotland. The first fiber optic cables were then deployed in the 1980s, using digital regenerators. In the 1990s Erbium-doped fiber amplifiers with moderate bandwidth were used, and today, fiber optic cables use large bandwidth amplifiers and dense wavelength division multiplexing.
Modern undersea telecommunication cable systems are routinely installed with tens of terabits per second capacity over ten mega meter distances. Cable systems can now offer an ultimate cable capacity approaching 100 Tb/s, while being flexible enough to allow for future-proof growth. These systems use a combination of large effective area fibers, EDFA-based repeaters gain-equalized to milli-dB levels over the entire C-band, and coherent transponders with advanced signal processing. Optical add-drop multiplexing allows this large capacity to be shared among several landing locations.
Undersea fiber optic cable systems have also proven to be invaluable for offshore scientific studies in which oceanographers and offshore earth scientists need constant high-bandwidth connectivity and electrical power. Also, as oil and gas industry assets continue to move farther offshore, the need for high bandwidth connectivity to manage and monitor production grows. These communication needs are being met with the use of undersea fiber optic cables and a suite of special-built undersea cable equipment.
Neal S. Bergano is the Vice President of R&D and the Chief Technology Officer of TE Subsea Communications LLC, Eatontown, NJ (TE SubCom). Neal received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York, and the M.S. degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1981, he joined the technical staff of Bell Labs’ undersea systems division. In 1992, he was named a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff of AT&T Bell Labs, where he became an AT&T Technology Consultant in 1996 and AT&T Technology Leader in 1997. From 1998 until 2013 he was the Managing Director of System Research and Network Development at TE SubCom. He holds 31 U.S. patents in the area of optical fiber transmission systems. His main research has been devoted to the understanding of how to improve the performance and transmission capacity of long-haul optical fiber systems, including the use of wavelength division multiplexing in optical-amplifier-based systems.
Neal is a Fellow of the IEEE, the OSA, AT&T, and TE Connectivity. He served on the Board of Directors for the OSA from 2009 to 2011, and served on the Board of Governors for the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society from 1999 to 2001. He is a long-time volunteer and supporter of the OFC meeting, which includes General Chair and Technical Chair in 1999 and 1997, Chair of the steering committee from 2000 to 2002, and is currently the Chair of OFC’s long range planning committee. He is the recipient of the year 2013 TE Connectivity Life-Time Achievement Award. He is the recipient of the 2002 John Tyndall Award, for outstanding technical contributions to and technical leadership in the advancement of global undersea fiber optic communication systems.