Despite the fanfare surrounding satellite networks, subsea cables still transmit 99 percent of all data between continents. Much like the interstate highway system, airline networks, and railways, undersea global communication cables form a hub and spoke system, albeit being somewhat curvilinear in places to skirt coastlines.
For those hub cities located where subsea cables come ashore (known as landing stations), the networks create a tremendous opportunity for becoming a recognized leader in digital data communications and storage. Major digital subsea cable landing hubs around the world include, but are not limited to:
- Alexandria, Egypt
- Bude, England, UK
- Busan, South Korea
- Fortaleza, Brazil
- Marseille, France
- Mumbai, India
- New York City Region, USA
- Singapore, Singapore
- Southeast Florida (Miami Region), USA
- Southern California (Los Angeles Region), USA
- Sydney, Australia
- Tokyo, Japan
Some of these digital cable hubs have also become home to multiple data centers, while in one case (Bude, England, UK), the town is an important intelligence gathering and surveillance location utilizing access to both subsea cables and satellites. However, the most noteworthy and successful effort by a subsea cable hub city to become a major player in digital communications and storage has been Marseille, France.
Marseille, France has 16 subsea cable networks coming ashore in the city and surrounding area, with more landing sites under development. Due to being an important hub for digital communications, Marseille has also become an important data center, with nine (9) facilities dotting the city (a tenth is under construction), including perhaps the most unique data center on the planet – one involving the adaption reuse of a 73,000 square foot World War II Nazi submarine bunker (see photo below).
Designed to shelter up to 20 U-boats from Allied air raids, the bunker was constructed with a six (6) meter thick concrete roof. That equates to a nearly 20 foot thick roof of solid concrete! This enormous structure sat incomplete and vacant for 75 years following German withdrawal from the city in 1944. It’s now the third data center owned by Interxion in the city and opened in 2020. A fourth Interxion data center currently under construction is adjacent to it (see photo below).
Located at the historic and natural seafaring crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, Africa, and Asian-Pacific countries; Marseille has become a vital data hub with ready digital access via subsea cables to 4.5 billion people. The map provided below depicts the strategic importance of Marseille’s subsea cable network in relation to Europe, Asia and Africa – located in the upper left corner of the image.
In late 2017, Interxion cited three more reasons for Marseille’s explosive growth in digital data communications.
“Marseille operates in a deregulated market, enabling vibrant competition between service providers that can connect Marseille to other key European cities. International networks delivering capacity into Marseille can choose from over 30 backhaul providers all of whom have been enhancing their services from Marseille across Europe.
The presence of a carrier-neutral data centres. There are 5 leading content distribution networks, 4 Internet Exchanges and major cloud and content platforms present in Marseille. The city has therefore transformed from the purely transit location of 5 years ago into one where content is stored and exchanged between networks.
The final factor behind Marseille’s development is the common vision for Information Technology shared between national and local government authorities and IT companies in Marseille.”Source: interxion.com/us/blogs/2017/10/three-reasons-why-marseille-is-the-fastest-growing-interconnection-hub-in-europe
Other cities around the globe are seeing the potential of cable landing locations and future data hubs as a terrific economic development engine. Fortaleza, Brazil is a strong contender in the digital communications marketplace, in part due to its strategic South Atlantic geographical location. Here in the United States, Virginia Beach, Virginia is actively marketing itself as a digital port, in part due to numerous military installations in the Tidewater area. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is also pushing for a subsea cable landing site.
Seaports were the original hubs of communications and trade between nations. Now, history has come full-circle, as coastal cities like Marseille, France are benefitting from their proximity to the sea where digital communication cables come ashore. In 2019, Aquacomms.com predicted the following coastal cities have potential to become important digital hubs by 2030:
“As new cables replace the old systems, we anticipate some shifts within the market in terms of the introduction of new subsea cable hubs and concentration points like Virginia Beach, Bordeaux, Genoa, and Guam.”
Those coastal cities noted above and others like Marseille and Fortaleza that act upon such an opportunity and successfully expand their digital footprint within the global economy will certainly be among the pantheon of urban winners in our data-driven future.
If you would like to learn more about some of the topics contained in this post, here are links to two (2) books available through Amazon.com.*
*A small commission is earned from purchases that are made using the above links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.