“Submarine cables account for over 99% of intercontinental data traffic” is regularly quoted in the press with no source given.
It’s time for some fact-checking.
Getting to the Source
While digging into the origin of this myth, I was able to find one instance where a source was given. It was accredited to us, TeleGeography.
The citation linked to our Submarine Cable FAQs page, which states: “Statistics released by U.S. Federal Communications Commission indicate that satellites account for just 0.37% of all U.S. international capacity.”
We're only talking about U.S. international capacity here—not the total global capacity—and in relation to satellites.
I decided to go to the FCC’s website next.
Below, you’ll see a screenshot from the FCC’s Circuit Status Report page and a list of the reports that they offer.
The most recent data is for 2013, released in 2015. It’s almost 10 years old now; not a great source.
There’s no new data because the FCC changed the reporting requirement and satellite operators don’t have to report their circuits anymore. So that’s a dead-end for us, unfortunately.
Other Ways To Test This Myth
So, do submarine cables account for over 99% of intercontinental data traffic?
We can confirm that this is true. However, we can’t do precise calculations without data for intercontinental satellite traffic.
Tim Stronge and I tackled this myth and five others during our presentation at SubOptic 2023. Download our slides for the full breakdown.