TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: From Our Archives: Laser Phone Call Zips Across the Ocean

From Our Archives: Laser Phone Call Zips Across the Ocean

TELECOM Digest Editor (
Sat, 17 Jun 2006 14:26:46 EDT

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: This is an item which appeared in
TELECOM Digest V8 issue 202 on 12/16/88 (about 18 years ago) which I
thought you might enjoy seeing again. PAT]


A shark-proof undersea cable began carrying laser beam phone calls
across the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday as the first leg of a network
designed to revolutionize service on three continents.

AT&T, British Telecom and France Telecom, the three principal owners
of the cable asked well known author Isaac Asimov to dedicate the new
cable and place the first call.

In his remarks, Asimov said, "Welcome everyone to this historic
trans-Atlantic crossing -- this maiden voyage across the sea on a beam
of light..." He noted, "...our world has grown small, and this cable,
which can carry 40,000 calls at one time is a sign of the voracious
demand for communications today ... the clarity is in striking
contrast to the crackling first telephone message from Alex Bell to
his assistant Thomas A. Watson 113 years ago ..."

Mr. Asimov was the first speaker of several in a video conference in
New York that was transmitted to Paris and London by the new cable.

The fiber-optic cable, which is thinner than a child's wrist, is able
to handle double the capacity of all the trans-Atlantic copper-cable
predecessors combined. It took seven years to design, build and
install. The total cost was $361 million, but the people involved
insist that in the long run, it will mean a continued decline in the
price of overseas phone calls.

Ordinary television broadcasts will continue to be carried by
satellite because they would take up too much room on TAT-8. But the
cable will be used for video conferences on a regular basis between
the United States and Europe, using a method to compress the signals
and take up very little bandwidth.

American Telephone & Telegraph Company, which will operate TAT-8, said
1988 is the first year it will handle more than one billion
international calls.

Commenting on Asimov's remarks of '... a voracious demand for
communications ...' an AT&T spokesperson noted that even this new
cable will start running out of room late in 1991. The fourth quarter,
1991 is when a new fiber-optic cable with nearly double the new
cable's capacity is scheduled to begin operation.

Fiber-optic service to Japan and the far east will start in the second
quarter of 1989 under the name PTAT, and fiber-optic links to the
Caribbean and the Mediterranean will open in 1991 or 1992.

Lasers have revolutionized phone networks by making it possible to
transmit information in the form of rapid pulses of laser light
through hair thin strands of glass. The lasers transmit information in
digital form coded into a series of ones and zeros. Most long
distance calls within the United States are already carried on optic

Ownership of TAT-8 is as follows --

American Telephone and Telegraph, 34 percent
British Telecommunications , 15.5 percent
France Telecom , 10 percent

The remaining 40.5 percent is divided among 26 partners, some of whom
own up to two percent interest; while others own less than one percent
interest. The principal partners are --

Sprint Communications, MCI, Western Union and Northern Telecom.

Will overseas telephone rates go down in the next few years? AT&T says
they will. The exact amount is anyone's guess, but a spokesperson from
AT&T said " ... I think within a few years the rates will be *less
than half* of what they are now ..."

Wednesday, December 14, 1988: An historic day in telecommunications
history, and one I believe is only third to the invention of the
telephone itself; the second most historic occasion being the
completion of the cable which connected the east and west coasts of
the United States in the early 1920's.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: While overseas phone call rates had
begun to decrease by the middle 1980's they were _no where near_ as
low in cost as they are today, in 2006. PAT]

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Associated Press News Wire: "Still Another Laptop With Lots of Personal Data Stolen"
Go to Previous message: Jim Burks: "Re: How Evil Will Google Become?"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page