Undersea Cable Map

With the advent of fiber optic cables starting in the 1980’s,  the majority (one estimate says 99%) of this country’s overseas communications are carried by undersea cables.  These are interesting system constructions, being first redundant and second, self healing.  Glass fiber stands themselves are fairly fragile.  Bundling several together then sinking them in the ocean can create mixed results.  Deep ocean bottoms are often very rugged, containing mountains, canyons and fault lines.  Thus the submarine cables used have to be pretty rugged.

There is a common misconception that fiber optic cables do not need repeaters.  That is not true, while they do not need as many repeaters as copper cable, repeaters are still required approximately every 40-90 miles (70-150 km) depending on the cable type.  These active devices are another failure point.  Overall, it is a complex system.

Submarine Fiber Optic Cable cross section
Submarine Fiber Optic Cable cross section, courtesy of Wikipedia

Cross-section of a submarine fiber optic communications cable:

1. Polyethylene
2. Mylar tape
3. Stranded metal (steel) wires
4. Aluminum water barrier
5. Polycarbonate
6. Copper or aluminum tube
7. Petroleum jelly
8. Optical fibers

It weights about 7 pounds per foot, which is pretty hefty.

There are a couple of interactive maps on line that have detailed information about where these cables go, date in service and data capacity.  My favorite is Greg’s Cable Map which is a google map with cable data over layed with a downloadable KML file:

Undersea cable map
Undersea cable map

This shows a new cable called the “Emerald Express” which is going into service in 2013. Throughput is reported as 60 Tbps, which is moving right along.  As noted on the map, this is more of a schematic diagram connecting two shore side points.  The path the cable takes is an estimate and the actual geographical location may (is likely to) be different.  Click on any line on the map for cable information.  Most cables have their own web page and Wikipedia article.

Another undersea cable map is the Telegeography Submarine Cable Map, which has many of the same features noted above:

China US submarine Cable network diagram
China US submarine Cable network diagram

Just in case you were wondering, as I often do, how a TCP/IP connection is being routed to any given place.  For fun, I tried a trace route to a known server on Guam and found the results interesting:

Trace Route, Guam
Trace Route, Guam

Approximately 231 ms round trip route from NYC to LA to Guam and back, which is over 8,000 miles (12,850 km). A few of the intermediate routers did not answer and I tried this several different times; the same routers time out.   This missing information looks to be small steps, not large ones.  So, which cable goes directly from LA to Guam?  Possibly the China-US Cable Network (CHUS) (picture above).  At 2.2 Tbps and landing at San Luis Obispo, that is the likely candidate for the cable that carried my data.

As a general exercise, it is kind of fun, although it may be harder to figure out a particular route to say London or Berlin because there are many more different possibilities.

Route latency is something to keep in mind when planing out AOIP connections for remotes and other interactive type connections between studio and remote location.  Almost nothing is worse than that half second delay when trying to take phone calls or banter back and forth with the traffic reporter.

h/t: jf

Restoration work on an RCA transmitter

I read through this article about the ongoing restoration work of an RCA SSB T-3 transmitter and found it interesting.  The RCA T-3 transmitter is a 20 KW SSB/ISB HF (2-28 MHz) unit designed for point to point telephony service.  Because SSB requires class A or AB low distortion amplifiers, this is a large unit, even for its age and power levels.

From the looks of the before pictures, this transmitter was in sorry shape.

Here is a brief video of transmitter start up:

These units were designed to be switched on and run at 100% duty cycle from most of their operating lives. That is some heavy iron there.  This particular unit was made in 1959. More here and video part 2:

Anyway, before geosynchronous satellites, HF point to point transmitters were used to make long distance phone call connections and send data and pictures back and forth over long distances. Out in Hicksville, Long Island, Press Wireless ran a data and fax system that used HF for long haul data transmission.  Much of the WWII reporting from Europe and the Pacific Theaters was carried over this system.

Text would be printed out on a mechanical teletype machine at something like 60 words per minute, which was considered fast for the time:

Tuning across the band, one can often hear Radio Teletype (RTTY or RATT) which uses a 5 bit baudot code, 170 Hz shift with 2125 HZ representing a Mark or 1 bit and 2295 Hz representing a Space or 0 bit, which is bit different from the Bell 103 modem specifications. This is what it sounds like at 75 Baud:

So slow you can almost copy that by hand.

The RCA H (SSB T-3) unit above was independent side band (ISB), which means that either side band or both could be modulated independently of the other, thus two channels of information could be transmitted.  SSB bandwidth is about 2.7 KHz, which is good for telephone grade audio or low speed data.

I sort of wish I was living in California again, I’d lend a hand.

Call Sign Trivia

I found this youtube video about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania radio stations:

That’s cool and all that, but it brings up the question about the K/W calls which were misplaced during the early days of broadcasting.  Originally, call letters were assigned to ships and coastal radio stations in the following way:

Three letter call signs were for coastal (land) stations.  K letter calls were for shore stations in the west and W letter calls were for shore stations east.  Ships were assigned four letter calls, W calls signs issued to ships homeported on the west coast and K calls for ships homeported on the east coast.  There was a period of time that a few K call letters were issued to east coast broadcasting stations, no one is quite sure why.  Prior to 1923, the K/W boundary was not the Mississippi River, but the eastern border of the states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.  Thus, there are many more misplaced W call signs than K call signs.

Of course, KDKA and KQV come to mind. Philadelphia has KYW. What other misplaced call signs are there, e.g. W’s west of the Mississippi and K’s to the east?  Of course, one can google it and get an answer, however there is one that is pretty obscure.

The NASH: WNSH, Newark, NJ

Lately, I have been working at a site in West Orange, NJ connecting various parts and pieces and thought that this was interesting:

WNSH 94.7 MHz, Newark, NJ main antenna (top)
WNSH 94.7 MHz, Newark, NJ main antenna (top)

That is the main antenna for WNSH, 94.7 MHz Newark, NJ, aka “Nash-FM.”  Below that is the backup antenna for WEPN-FM (98.7 MHz), WQHT (97.1 MHz) and WFAN-FM (101.9 MHz).  More on those stations later.

WFME studio building
WFME studio building

This is the WFME studios, located off of NJ Route 10.  It is kind of hard to see the call letters behind all those trees and whatnot.  There is an older picture from 1999 floating around, which shows the studio building in better condition.  This is a better angle:

WFME studio
WFME studio

I believe WFME is still originating its programming here, now being broadcast on WFME 106.3 MHz, Mount Kisco.  I had to use the facilities there, the interior is like a way back 80’s time machine, which is kind of cool.  If I owned a radio station, I would go for the 70’s office decor; dark wood paneling, shag carpets, bright blue bathroom tile and avocado green appliances, but hey, that’s just me.

WNSH backup antenna, WFME-TV antenna
WNSH backup antenna, WFME-TV antenna

This is the WNSH backup antenna, mounted on top of a UHF slot antenna for WFME-TV.  There is an LP TV antenna mounted there also, but I don’ t know who it belongs to.  Overall, it is an interesting transmitter site on “First Mountain” in West Orange, NJ.  Also located here, WFMU-FM, an old ATT microwave site, now owned by American Tower and several cell carriers.   In other words, it is just like most other mountain top transmitter sites, except there is a shopping plaza across the street.

I gave a listen to the NASH while driving there.  For where it is, it seems to have a pretty good coverage area.  As for the music, well, I am not sure how a Manhattenite will relate to Tracy Byrd’s “I’m from the Country” wherein:

Everybody knows everybody, everybody calls you friend
You don’t need an invitation, kick off your shoes come on in
Yeah, we know how to work and we know how to play
We’re from the country and we like it that way

Being from upstate NY, I get it.  Perhaps the Manhattan salary man will too.  There are no DJ’s on air quite yet, just music, some commercials and a few “Nash-FM” liners that sound slightly distorted.