To understand mobile communications, we need to go back to
when Queen Victoria sent
a telegram to the then US president James Buchanan.
The message travelled through 2,500km of newly laid subsea telegraph cable and took 16 hours to arrive.
Today, the Internet and the vast majority of international calls made via smartphones are dependent on underwater cables, but things have advanced.
Often thousands of miles long, these fibre optic cables transmit huge amounts of data at lightning speed.
In fact, under the River Thames in London, lies Tower Subway.
Opened in August 1870, it used to transport people but now it houses some of Vodafone UK’s fibre-optic cables.
Vodafone’s role in this network goes back centuries from its Cable & Wireless heritage, starting with the landing of the first telegraph cable into Porthcurno, Cornwall in 1870.
Two years later, founder John Pender formed the Eastern Telegraph Company which would become the largest international telegraph company in the world.
To stay ahead of the curve, the company merged with the inventor Guglielmo Marconi’s Wireless Company, eventually becoming Cable & Wireless.
During the second World War, Porthcurno continued to be a critical hub with 14 cables carrying 70% of all international telegraph communications from the UK .
And by 1985, the first undersea fibre optic systems arrived.
Working with several partners, we’re helping build the 2Africa cable, 2Africa, the largest ever single submarine cable project.
In 2012, Cable & Wireless became part of Vodafone and the company is still expanding these cables today.
Once completed, it will circle the whole of Africa, connecting it to Europe and the Middle East.
As a result, millions will get access to the internet where they couldn’t before, while those with existing access will get a better online experience.
Vodafone continues to be one of the largest investors in submarine cable systems, with capacity on around 80 systems that reach 100 countries.
Forming the backbone for the data centres enabling connectivity and access to the internet, they remain a crucial part of the communications infrastructure.
Bringing young people into the team, Vodafone is looking ahead too.
Submarine cable engineer Frankie Targett tells us about her role and how she’s exploring using submarine cables to monitor climate change.