Apollo Cable (submarine cable system) and its impact on communications

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The impact Apollo Cable have on data communications is high. We all get things like Facebook messages or emails with information from all over the world in just seconds! Now let’s have a look at what makes this possible?

A network of fibre optic cables, which you mostly cannot even see, makes this possible. Buried underground, aerial, or laid on the ocean bed.

The majority of all international data is transmitted by fibre optic cable at the bottom of the ocean.

One such cable system is the Apollo Submarine cable system. Owned by Apollo Submarine Cable System Ltd it consists of two segments divided into North and South.


It creates two fully diverse transatlantic paths with 4 separate landings. 

  • Bude, Cornwall (UK)
  • Lannion, Brittany (FR)
  • Shirley, New York (USA)
  • Manasquan, New Jersey (USA).

Known as Apollo North and Apollo South.




Photo courtesy of Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo (cable_system)


Apollo Cable – North and South.

North connects the United Kingdom and the USA totalling a span of about 6200km. Apollo South directly connects France and the USA totalling a span of about 7000km.  

In February 2003 the Apollo cable system became ready for service. 4 fibre pairs and 3.2 TeraBits per second was the initial design capacity on both Apollo North and Apollo South. Totalling 6.4 TeraBits per Second trans-Atlantic capacity.

However, TeraBits per second (Tbps) was once a measurement that was considered unachievable. As we progress with 40, 100, 200 and 400Gbps Ethernet becoming the standard for high-speed backbones, Tbsp. will become the norm for the future.

The Apollo cable network was built, is owned and operated by Apollo Submarine Cable System Limited. This was a UK based company jointly owned by Cable & Wireless Worldwide and Alcatel-Lucent. Now owned by Vodafone. 

Apollo technology is known to have the highest capacity of any Atlantic system and an unparalleled track record of reliability.


What does Apollo cable look like?

A typical submarine communications cable is a cable that is laid on the ocean bed in between land-based stations. This type of cable enables telecommunication signals to be carried across stretches of ocean and sea.

Example of what the cross section of a submarine cable looks like.


cable layer



Submarine cables were simple point-to-point connections when originally designed. However, now with the development of SBUs (submarine branching units), multiple destinations can be served with a single cable system.

Current cable systems usually have fibres arranged in a self-healing ring (SHR). This helps to increase their redundancy. It is the term used for loop network topology.

Sonet, SDH and WDM systems often use this network topology.


Apollo Cable identified the Importance of submarine cables

The dependability of submarine cables remains high particularly due to multiple paths being available should the cable be broken. A fusion Apollo review stated that they were highly reliable and secure.

Another thing is the total carrying capacity of submarine cables. It is in the terabits per second, compared to satellites typically only offering 1,000 megabits per second. Satellites also display higher latency.

However, a typical multi-terabit, transoceanic submarine cable system can cost several hundred million dollars to construct.

They are highly valued and respected. Not only by the corporations building and operating them for profit, but also by national governments and military


Does Apollo cable link Australia?

Apollo Submarine cable does not link Australia to the rest of the world. The Southern Cross Cable is one of the cables that links us. This trans-Pacific network of telecommunications cables was commissioned in 2000.

The Southern Cross Cable Network (SCCN) design comprises of a protected ring network among 9 cable landing stations (two each in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and the US mainland, and one in Fiji) with an access point in San Jose, California.


The Southern Cross Cable Network contains

  • 3 fibre pairs between Sydney and Hawaii,
  • 4 fibre pairs between Hawaii and the US West Coast.


Approximately 30,500 km in length, which includes 28,900km of submarine cable and 1,600km of terrestrial cable. Terrestrial fibre optic cables are used to extend the connectivity to landlocked countries or heavily populated areas with submarine cable access.

The network has 28,900 km of submarine and 1,600 km of terrestrial fibre optic cables, all which operate in a triple-ring configuration.




Landing points

  • Alexandria, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  • Brookvale, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  • Suva, Fiji
  • Whenuapai, New Zealand
  • Takapuna, New Zealand
  • Kahe Point, Oahu, Hawaii, United States
  • Samuel M. Spencer Beach, Hawaiʻi island, Hawaii, United States
  • Nedonna Beach, Oregon, United States
  • Morro Bay, California, United States


Southern Cross Next submarine cable is the next project that has commenced. The plans are to provide the largest capacity data link between Australia, Auckland and Los Angeles.

Comprising of 16,148km of cable, designed to carry 72 terabits per second (Tbps) of traffic and expected completion by the end 2021 or early 2022. The goal is to join two existing Southern Cross cables connecting Asia Pacific to the US.

SCCN was founded in 1997. SCCL is currently owned by Spark (NZ), Singtel EInvestments (Singapore), Telstra (AU) and Verizon Business (USA).


What are the other submarine cables linking Australia?


Australia japancable


  • The Australia Japan cable links Sydney to Japan via Guam.
  • The Gondwana cable links Sydney to New Caledonia.
  • The PPC-1 cable links Sydney, Guam and Papua New Guinea.
  • The Endeavour cable links Sydney to Hawaii.
  • The APNG-2 cable links Sydney to Papua New Guinea.
  • The SEA-ME-WE3 cable links Perth to Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
  • The ASC cable links Perth to Singapore.
  • The ASSC-1 cable links Perth, Indonesia and Singapore


The main companies operating the cables are:

  • Southern Cross Cable Ltd, which operates the Southern Cross Cable
  • PIPE International, which operates PPC-1
  • Telstra, which operates APNG-2 and Telstra Endeavour and
  • Singtel and Reach, who operate the SEA-ME-WE 3 cable.

These cables not only connect Australia to the world but are also vitally important for connecting Australia’s smaller neighbours to the world.


The Importance of Submarine Cable for Australia

Our Australian government considers its submarine cable systems to be “critical to the Australian economy”.  As an island nation, we are highly dependent on submarine cables, which carry most of our voice and data traffic in and out of the country.

Our government have implemented a tough cable protection regime to defend this.

According to the Telecommunications and other Legislation Amendment (Protection of Submarine Cables and other Measures) Act 2005 (Schedule 3A) the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has created protection zones.

These restrict activities that could potentially damage cables linking Australia to the rest of the world. Mining, trawling, certain types of fishing, anchoring of vessels and dredging are prohibited or restricted.

There are three protection zones: two covering the Southern Cross and Australia-Japan cables off the New South Wales coast, and one covering the SEA-ME-W3 cable off Western Australia.




Protection Zones are typically 3.7km wide & run to 2000m water depth. Criminal penalties apply of up to AU$66,000.00 for individuals or $330,000 for corporations and or 10 years prison.

The ACMA also regulates any projects wanting to install new submarine cables. They will need to get permission to do so first.

Submarine cables are also very important to the modern military as well as private enterprise.



Submarine cables connect the world!





Source: TeleGeography Submarine Cable Map

Wait, that is not totally true. Antarctica is the only continent not yet reached by submarine telecommunications cables. All phone, video, and e-mail traffic is relayed to the rest of the world using satellite links. Which have limited availability and capacity?

All this does is prove that we would survive even if we temporarily lost any of our submarine cables. We would also have to rely on satellites for our communications needs until the problem is solved.