Transatlantic telephone cable

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A transatlantic telephone cable is a submarine communications cable that carries telephone traffic under the Atlantic Ocean.

When the first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1858 by businessman Cyrus West Field, it operated for only a month; subsequent attempts in 1865 and 1866 were more successful. Although a telephone cable was discussed starting in the 1920s, to be practical it needed a number of technological advances which did not arrive until the 1940s. Starting in 1927, transatlantic telephone service was radio-based.

TAT-1 (Transatlantic No. 1) was the first transatlantic telephone cable system. It was laid between Gallanach Bay, near Oban, Scotland and Clarenville, Newfoundland between 1955 and 1956. It was inaugurated on September 25, 1956, initially carrying 36 telephone channels. In the first 24 hours of public service there were 588 London–U.S. calls and 119 from London to Canada. The capacity of the cable was soon increased to 48 channels. TAT-1 was finally retired in 1978.

There have been a succession of newer transatlantic cable systems. All recent systems have used fiber optic transmission, and a self-healing ring topology. Late in the 20th century, communications satellites lost most of their North Atlantic telephone traffic to these low cost, high capacity cables.

* first fiber optic cable.

The TAT series of cables constitute a large percentage of all North Atlantic cables. All TAT cables are consortia joint ventures between a number of telecommunications companies, e.g. British Telecom. CANTAT are transatlantic telephone cables terminating in Canada rather than the USA. There are a number of private non-TAT cables.

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