Responses of Submarine Telecommunication Cables to Seabed Movement

Project: Research

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The Internet and telecommunication are becoming indispensable to our daily lives.Without the Internet or telecommunication, there would be NO email, World Wide Web,e-commerce, online stock trading, Facebook, or even smartphones, etc. Indeed, asmartphone is not “smart” without Internet access. About 97% of international andintercontinental Internet communications are transported via fiber optic submarinetelecommunication cables, which are the physical backbones of the entire cyber world.Submarine telecommunication cables are often either laid directly on the seabed orburied at shallow depths within the seabed. Over the last decade, damage to submarinetelecommunication cables has been observed when significant seabed movementoccurred due to geo-hazards (e.g., earthquakes and submarine landslides). For example,in 2006, a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck Hengchun, south of Taiwan, severelydamaged seven submarine telecommunication cables and disrupted internationaltelecommunications to Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Korea, Japan and Singapore. Afterthe earthquake, Hong Kong suffered from very slow Internet connection and disruptionof other telecommunication services (e.g., international direct dial) for more than amonth. Similar scenarios of multiple submarine telecommunication cable damageoccurred twice in the Mediterranean Sea during 2008, compromising Internet connectionin Europe, Asia and Africa. Although the economic cost of the damage was very difficultto measure accurately, a report from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)Zurich in 2005 suggested that a one-week Internet blackout costs 1.2% of the GDP (i.e.,many billions of dollars).This proposed research aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of theinteraction between submarine telecommunication cables and seabed movement anddevelop risk assessment methodologies for submarine telecommunication cables. Themajor research components include finite element numerical simulations and full-scalephysical modeling using a soil testing chamber. The numerical and full-scale physicalmodels will reveal the failure mechanisms of submarine telecommunication cabledamage due to seabed movement. The modeling results will be used to develop designcharts and methods for evaluating the seabed movement-induced risk of submarinetelecommunication cable damage.The proposed research will quantify the risk of seabed movement-induced damage tosubmarine telecommunication cables. The research outcome will be applicable tosubmarine telecommunication cables worldwide and contribute to the development of afast and reliable global Internet, which is becoming increasingly vital not only to HongKong, but also to many other countries around the world.?


Project number9042331
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/173/06/21

    Research areas

  • Geotechnical variability , Geotechnical uncertainty , Subset Simulation , Geotechnical reliability ,