SubCableWorld has been closely monitoring the progress of the SMART Cables concept.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, SMART Cables incorporate sensors in the repeaters and allow traditional commercial submarine fiber optic cables to collect vast amounts of ocean data without interfering with their primary purpose of carrying Internet traffic.

Today, we are reporting on progress made in advancing SMART within the ITU’s World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly–20 (WTSA-20) and World Telecommunication Development Conference 2022 (WTDC-22), both of which were held this spring. 

At WTSA-20, SMART Cables were discussed for the 1st time at the highest level at ITU-T, following a European Common Proposal (ECP) for a new ITU-T Resolution, specifically dedicated to SMART Cables.  While the proposal received strong support from many Member States, it could not be approved as consensus was not reached in WTSA. The European proposal was not supported by the USA, Japan, China and Russia on the grounds that SMART Cables were already being dealt with within the ITU and it was, therefore, unnecessary to have a Resolution dedicated to SMART Cables for this purpose.

As a result of these discussions, the Plenary agreed to include the text on SMART Submarine Cable Systems, found below, in the meeting report of WTSA-20:

Taking into consideration that the Assembly acknowledged the importance of SMART (Science Monitoring and Reliable Telecommunications) Cables for climate change and seismic monitoring, and the wide support of the Assembly for the roll-out of activities around this concept within ITU-T Sector;

Considering that standardization of the submarine SMART cables is needed in order to ensure harmonized development, implementation and operation of these systems globally, making it possible to use submarine SMART cables for climate and ocean observation, sea level monitoring, observations of Earth structure, and tsunami and earthquake early warning and disaster risk reduction.

At WTDC-22, SMART Cables also received discussion at the highest level and two existing Resolutions were revised/amended to consider SMART Cables. That got a consensual acceptance by all, no opposition this time from any member state.

The revisions/amendments are shown below and the entire Provisional Final Report for WTDC-22 can be viewed here

  • Page 186, RESOLUTION 34 (Rev. Kigali, 2022) on “The role of telecommunications/information and communication technology in disaster preparedness, early warning, rescue, mitigation, relief and response.”
    • f) that the concept of SMART (scientific monitoring and reliable telecommunication)cable includes scientific sensors mounted in the repeaters of submarine cables to measure oceanbottom temperature, pressure and seismic acceleration,
  • Page 272, RESOLUTION 66 (Rev. Kigali, 2022) on “Information and communication technology, environment, climate change and circular economy,”
    • a) that ITU, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established the Joint Task Force to investigate the use of submarine telecommunication cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning (JTF SMART Cable Systems) in late 2012;
    • b) that the information obtained from SMART cables can be used for:
      • i) climate-change monitoring (ocean circulation, heat content and sea-level rise);
      • ii) seismic monitoring (earth structure and related hazards);
      • iii) near-to-far field tsunami and earthquake early warning, contributing to disaster risk reduction;
      • iv) warning of hazards to cables, and improved routing of cable systems;
      • v) quantifying risk to inform sustainable development of coastal and offshore infrastructure