It’s time for investors to hit the history books. A 150 year-old business with more than 300,000 miles of cable laid at the bottom of the ocean may be about to change hands, as Alcatel-Lucent’s undersea telecommunications cable business attracts interest from potential buyers.
The unit, Alcatel’s last production site in France, has been manufacturing cables north of Paris and loading them on so-called cable layer ships for more than a century. In fact, the Franco-American company’s lineage has been involved in submarine cables since the first such link was established across the Atlantic back in the 1800s.
In August 1858, a signal –a message just under 100 words long– was emitted using the first undersea telegraph link, which went from Ireland to Newfoundland, Canada using 17,000 miles of cable to cover a 2000-mile distance. The message arrived… 16 hours later! The 1 bit-per-second capacity copper cable, a technological feat for its time, thus allowed Queen Victoria and U.S. President James Buchanan to communicate.
That piece of history still lies in deep-sea waters at the bottom of the ocean, next to newer generations of fiber-optics cables which can carry data at 3.8 terabits-per-second — 3.8 trillion times the original speed.