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What if Antarctica was connected to the Internet by an undersea cable?

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Antarctica remains to this day the only continent with no permanent habitation. Nevertheless, it hosts many scientific bases. Australia is considering the construction of a submarine cable in order to offer its weather stations a connection of unprecedented quality.

Connect Antarctica to fiber optics

With its very low temperatures, Antarctica is a continent hostile to human settlements. It is also the only continent with no permanent home. However, Antarctica is home to 70 science bases and 1,000 occupants, a figure that can rise. at 5,000 in the heart of summer southern. Currently, the question of internet connection arises concerning this continent. On March 31, 2021, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) published a report at the request of Parliament. In it, experts recommend the construction of a submarine cable between Australia and Antarctica. The goal? Improve the connectivity of weather stations that the country has established.

Australia is considering routing fiber optics to Davis, Casey, Mawson and Macquarie Island stations. These are respectively 4,838, 3,443, 5,475 and 1,542 km from Hobart in Tasmania. Currently, scientists in Antarctica have a 9 (Mb / s) satellite connection with a latency of 300 ms. The stations also have a backup data link of only 0.65 Mb / s with a latency of 700 ms. According to the BoM, intercontinental fiber-optic submarine cable would offer unprecedented speed and reliability. At the same time, this company would make Australia a key leader and an international partner in Antarctica.

Credit: Australian Antarctic Division

Great ambitions

In October 2020, the NSW government signed an agreement with operator Telstra. The goal ? To build 5,200 kilometers of high-speed fiber to serve the state’s 2,000 public schools. The budget allocated to the project is 212 million euros but this is nothing compared to the next investments in Antarctica, the amount of which is still unknown. The companies responsible for installing cables will inevitably facing the polar environment. However, this will be far from being a piece of cake. In addition to the climate, operators will notably have to deal with the icebergs surrounding the frozen continent.

Let us also mention the fact that Australia has several isolated islands with only a 3G satellite connection. These include Heard and MacDonald Islands, Cocos Islands or Norfolk Island, which will also need to be connected. Despite these great ambitions for optical fiber, Australia will not abandon satellite internet connectivity. She even wants to launch other communication satellites and does not rule out using SpaceX’s future Starlink network.


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