Risk Management in Submarine Cable Systems

Submarine networks carry over 99% of the world's Intercontinental electronic communications traffic.

There is misconception that Satellites carry data from continent to continent. If we ask anyone in the world, 95% of people give answer as satellites carry international traffic. This is absolutely wrong.

The Internet, International communication & Cloud Networking. Without submarine cable systems, we cannot imagine all these above.

In this article, I would like to brief about Risk Management in Submarine systems. Submarine cable project itself is very risky as it includes million dollars investment for consortium partners or private owner.

There are two types of risks.

  • Physical risks
  • Business risks

Physical risks involve manmade risks as well natural risks.

What are the Manmade Risks of Submarine Cable System ?

Manmade risks includes ship anchors dragging one or multiple cables, cable attack by Pirates, cable terrorism or even competitors trying to break your cable by hiring local pirates and fishing damage. Faults on the submarine system are disruptive, and repairs are time consuming and expensive. It may take minimum 1 to 1.5 months' time for repair, depends on climate conditions and marine cable ship availability.

How we can protect submarine cable from Manmade Risks?

The segments most at risk are those at the landing points, close to the sea shore and those in water that is less than 300m in depth.

Cable protection can be done using Automatic Identification system (AIS). A Web based monitoring system protect submarine assets such as electricity cables, telecoms cables, and oil and gas pipelines, creating automatic warnings & alarms if an asset could be at risk due to shipping activity. All marine activities can be monitored 24*7 remotely at Network Operation Centre.

I remember the incident happened in March 2013, it was a nightmare for me where I had to wake up 24hrs working on restoration of our services went down due multiple subsea cable cut.

Multiple subsea cables experienced cable cuts at Egypt Mediterranean sea includes TE North cable owned by Telecom Egypt ( Tata, Telecom Egypt & SEACOM traffic on it ), Europe India Gateway cable (EIG ) and SEA-ME-WE-4. This resulted in 40% of Asia traffic went down (Entire Pakistan is isolated from rest of world ) .

As per Egyptian authorities say they have arrested three scuba divers trying to cut through an undersea internet cable. Automatic Identification System ( AIS ) could have saved this.

What are Natural Risks in Submarine cable systems?

Natural risks includes Shark attacks, mud slides, undersea earthquakes, current abrasion , Tsunamis and Cyclones which are unpredictable and can strike any cable anytime irrespective of the history of such occurrences.

The biggest risk to any cable is bad planning, bad cable design and bad installation methods. Cables that are not designed for the seabed they cross and then the seabed itself with shifting sands, bed rock etc offer no protection.

A badly designed cable with minimal protection is a huge risk. The when you get people who have no history of cable design and installation getting into the business, then they are asking for trouble.

What are the Business Risks?

Normally, subsea capacity is purchased as IRUs (Indefeasible Rights of Use) or leased ( say less than 5 years) by customers like content providers, service providers , etc. They will pay O&M charges for the capacity on yearly basis.

Suppose, if IRU customers do not pay O&M charges due financial crisis or go on bankrupt. This is biggest risk for private owned cable. In that case, the private cable will go bankrupt as has happened multiple times.

There are also chances, all customers of the private cable decide to abandon the cable .

In case of consortium, let us say there is only one submarine cable landing in particular country owned by some provider. There are the landing party owner & capacity owner. They decide not to sell backhaul capacity to their competitors? It will be a monopoly then.

We can mitigate this by having multiple cables, multiple consortium partners and by open access cable systems . Open access cable system allows any licensed operator in particular country can purchase the capacity.


Risk cannot, of course, be completely avoided, but there are practices to minimize it. Risk Management is going to be the key differentiator between successful and failed submarine cables in the future.

In our next article, we will discuss about Submarine Cable landing stations & risk management at Submarine cable station.

Created by
Orhan Ergun

Orhan Ergun, CCIE/CCDE Trainer, Author of Many Networking Books, Network Design Advisor, and Cisco Champion 2019/2020/2021

He created OrhanErgun.Net 10 years ago and has been serving the IT industry with his renowned and awarded training.

Wrote many books, mostly on Network Design, joined many IETF RFCs, gave Public talks at many Forums, and mentored thousands of his students.  

Today, with his carefully selected instructors, OrhanErgun.Net is providing IT courses to tens of thousands of IT engineers. 

View profile

Daniel Lardeux
Daniel Lardeux Senior Network Consultant at Post Telecom

I passed the CCDE Practical exam and Orhan’s CCDE course was very important contributor to my success. I attended the CCDE course of Orhan Ergun in July and it was exactly what I needed, Orhan is taking the pain to break down the different technologies.

Roy Lexmond
Roy Lexmond Senior Network Designer at Routz CCDE #20150017 & CCIE R&S; #26557

After I attended Orhan Ergun’s CCDE course I passed the CCDE practical exam.I really enjoyed the course a lot ...

Nicholas Russo
Nicholas Russo Network Consulting Engineer (CCDE/CCIEx2), Cisc

I signed up for Orhan’s CCDE training. This training is very technically detailed and the use-cases, quizzes, scenarios, and mind maps are all great resources in the overall training program. Orhan teaches his students to think like a network designer ...

Slide Heading
Slide Heading Network Systems Engineer at Conscia A/S CCIE #42544 (SP) & CCDE #20160015

Orhan is forcing you to take off the implementation hat that most of us have been wearing for many years, instead he is providing a new fancy design hat, which makes you see and deal with the issues presented ...

Kim Pedersen
Kim Pedersen CCIE in RS and SP (#29189) CCDE#20170021

I’ve used Orhan’s self-paced CCDE training material. If you are interested in knowing how all the technologies go together in a coherent design i can highly recommend it.I also enjoyed the Quizzes which helped pick out my weak spots in selecting ...

Laurent Metzger
Laurent Metzger 3xCCIE/CCDE Senior Network Architect

Hi Orhan. I passed the CCDE exam on February 22. I read everything that you put on your Self Paced CCDE Training course and it was very helpful in my success. Thank you very much.

Martin J. Duggan
Martin J. Duggan Network Architect at AT&T;, Ciscopress Author CCDE #20160006 & CCIE#7942

I attended Orhan’s April 201610 days CCDE Bootcamp. I am CCDE now !

You can tell Orhan has a great deal of experience, it really comes through when he presents his design case studies and the CCDE Practical scenarios.

Muhammad Abubakar
Muhammad Abubakar Lead Network Architect – CCDE #20160016 2xCCIE #26693 2xJNCIE VCIX

Your excellent CCDE materials and amazing Bootcamp helped me tremendously through my learning journey.Also thank you very much for being available whenever I have a design question or a complex design topics. I can’t compare your design skills ...

Jennifer Pai
Jennifer Pai Network/Security Engineer at KNET Technology

Thanks Orhan very much for this course. It helped strengthen my “Network design mind”.

Ruslan Silyayev
Ruslan Silyayev Solution Architect at R.I.S.K Company

Training by Orhan is not a CCDE preperation training only. It will be useful for engineers which are dealing with design. You want to pass CCDE exam or learn network design, then don’t look at anywhere else!

Sameer Meher
Sameer Meher Solutions Architect at 23 Wards/Japan

Orhan Ergun’s CCDE course was really very good. CCDE Level Intelligence was delivered very well and with very useful case studies and the scenarios, I am thankful to Orhan for all his help!

Ken Young
Ken Young Senior Technical Architect Province of Nova Scotia, 2xCCIE #41597 | CCDE #20170047

If anyone wants to understand network design and architecture, also pass CCDE exam , I recommend you to attend Orhan’s online courses! I am a CCDE now but learning is a journey, we will be together in your other courses too Orhan!

Matt Cross
Matt Cross Technical Architect at Heartland – CCDE #2019::7

Orhan did an excellent job of filling in the gaps of knowledge that I had that took me to the finish line of the practical exam CCDE. The community of people that Orhan facilitates are both engaging and supportive of the journey to CCDE. Orhan ...

Shiling Ding
Shiling Ding Sentinel Technologies – CCDE #2019::12

Just passed the CCDE Practical exam! I attended Orhan Ergun’s CCDE training program , used Orhan’s Instructor Led and Self-Paced CCDE training and Online CCDE Practical Scenarios during my CCDE journey. Orhan’s CCDE In Depth book is an excellent summary ...

Abelardo Basurto
Abelardo Basurto Solutions Architect at Cisco Systems – CCDE 2018::6

Hi everyone, I’ve just passed the CCDE Exam. My Number is CCDE 2018::6 I attended to Online CCDE Bootcamp of Orhan. I want to thank Orhan not only for the great book and bootcamp, but also for his commitment, availability and willingness to assist the ...

Hady Mohamed Abdellah
Hady Mohamed Abdellah Network Architect Hamad International Airport Qatar – CCDE 2018::1

Hi guys, I’m so happy that I passed the exam. I’ve already got my number CCDE 2018::1. Thanks to Orhan for being the best CCDE instructor in the world. I highly recomend Orhan’s CCDE Training and In-Depth-CCDE ...

Bryan Bartik
Bryan Bartik Sr. Systems Engineer at CompuNet – CCDE 20170059

Hi Orhan I passed CCDE Practical exam on November 2017 ! I really enjoyed your materials and quizzes and use cases. They were definitely helpful in my preparation. Thanks a lot !

Giedrius Trapkauskas
Giedrius Trapkauskas Network Solutions Architect at Liberty Global – CCDE 20180004

I attended Orhan’s CCDE Training in Istanbul and it was very helpful in my preparation. I passed the exam recently and I want to say Thank you Orhan! For those who want to pass the CCDE exam, definitely start with ...

Alaa Issa
Alaa Issa Sr.Solutions Architect – CCDE#20180033 3xCCIE ( Collab|DC|Security )#27146

I registered to Orhan’s training in Feb 2017. From that time, I attended Orhan’s training several times. The depth of knowledge which Orhan has is amazing, and how to present such consistent knowledge to the ...

Mazin Ahsan Design Lead Engineer | Solutions Engineer | CCDE License # 20160030 | CCIE Licence # 23892

I passed the CCDE Practical Lab exam on November 17,2016 from supplications of elders and dedication from my Sensei Mr. Orhan Ergun I took different CCDE bootcamps in the past. Orhan has the most depth and expertise ...

Jeff Patterson CCDE# 2018::11

Hi Orhan I wanted to pass along my appreciation for the outstanding training material. I used the online CCDE training provided by Orhan as well as the In-Depth-CCDE book and passed the exam in February 2018. Thank you Orhan!

Mehdi Sfar
Mehdi Sfar Network and Security Architect / CCDE #20210003 | CCIE R&S; #51583

I signed up for Orhan’s CCDE Self paced Course. This course, along with the CCDE In Depth book, helped me for my CCDE Practical as well as Written exams. It pushed me to ask the "WHY" questions and allowed ...

Related courses

Cisco CCDE v3 Training

71:39:34 Hours
225 Lectures


Service Provider Training

00:10:47 Hours
30 Lectures


Cisco CCIE Service Provider Training

108:43:00 Hours
258 Lectures