Archive for December, 2020

Unintended consequences of submarine cable deployment on Internet routing

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 by Roderick Fanou

Figure 1: This picture shows a line of floating buoys that designate the path of the long-awaited SACS (South-Atlantic Cable System). This submarine cable now connects Angola to Brazil (Source: G Massala,, Feb 2018.)

The network layer of the Internet routes packets regardless of the underlying communication media (Wifi, cellular telephony, satellites, or optical fiber). The underlying physical infrastructure of the Internet includes a mesh of submarine cables, generally shared by network operators who purchase capacity from the cable owners [2,11]. As of late 2020, over 400 submarine cables interconnect continents worldwide and constitute the oceanic backbone of the Internet. Although they carry more than 99% of international traffic, little academic research has occurred to isolate end-to-end performance changes induced by their launch.

In mid-September 2018, Angola Cables (AC, AS37468) activated the SACS cable, the first trans-Atlantic cable traversing the Southern hemisphere [1][A1]. SACS connects Angola in Africa to Brazil in South America. Most assume that the deployment of undersea cables between continents improves Internet performance between the two continents. In our paper, “Unintended consequences: Effects of submarine cable deployment on Internet routing”, we shed empirical light on this hypothesis, by investigating the operational impact of SACS on Internet routing. We presented our results at the Passive and Active Measurement Conference (PAM) 2020, where the work received the best paper award [11,7,8]. We summarize the contributions of our study, including our methodology, data collection and key findings.

[A1]  Note that in the same year, Camtel (CM, AS15964), the incumbent operator of Cameroon, and China Unicom (CH, AS9800) deployed the 5,900km South Atlantic Inter Link (SAIL), which links Fortaleza to Kribi (Cameroon) [17], but this cable was not yet lit as of March 2020.