SubOptic Education

Ensuring long-term continuity in the submarine fiber optic knowledge base

In January of 2021, the SubOptic Association—the leading industry trade body for the fiber optic submarine cable industry—launched the SubOptic Foundation, a nonprofit focused on supporting education and research initiatives to prepare fiber optic leaders of tomorrow for critical challenges facing the industry.

Over 99 percent of current intercontinental Internet traffic is supported by submarine telecommunications cables. Despite the necessity of these networks for global communications—and all the job opportunities they raise—many members of the public don’t even know they exist.

In the not-too-distant past, large telecom incumbents had their own training academies where technical school and university graduates would learn specifics about the company’s networks, technologies, and standard operating procedures. These environments brought students into a space of cultural exchange and learning to apply their formal training to the real world.

With deregulation, increased market pressures, and lower margins, academies are a distant memory. Formal training for this industry is now rare, and there are no major university courses on submarine fiber optic cable networks. Still, the importance of subsea cables and connectivity continues to escalate, especially at the regional level in Asia, Africa, and South America (where local content and applications are developing with an insatiable appetite for bandwidth and 5G/6G mobile technology will require better, faster, and more reliable subsea technology).

So, how do we reach and retain the next generation of subsea cable professionals to address these looming challenges? We believe there should be a broad, integrated, industry-wide educational curriculum on subsea cable systems and digital infrastructures.

Erick Contag, President of the Board of Trustees,  SubOptic Foundation and Valey Kamalov, SubOptic Member

To establish this foundation, we need to reach further into schools and universities and partner with related industry associations and educational institutions to generate awareness and foster a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and sustainable industry. Regional education is likewise essential in developing an effective workforce.

This story is part of a paid subscription. Please subscribe for immediate access.

Subscribe Now Already have Subscription? Login


Erick Contag

Erick Contag is former Executive Chairman of GlobeNet, Vice President of SubOptic, and Trustee of the SubOptic Foundation. Contag has over 30 years of executive management, entrepreneurship, marketing & sales, and business development expertise and is a strategist who is passionate about building and operating sustainable digital infrastructures.

Valey Kamalov

Valey Kamalov is an expert in subsea optical networking and responsible for building the first coherent cable (SJC), the first open cable (Faster), the first SDM cable (Dunant), and the first fiber switching cable (Equiano). He also discovered how operational submarine cables can detect earthquakes and water waves and now runs a company on early earthquake and tsunami detection. Previously he worked for 20+ years at Siemens and Google.

Julian Rawle

With 23 years of experience in the subsea cable industry, Rawle has worked across emerging and developing markets and with clients operating in Asia, Africa, South America, Australasia, Oceania, Europe, and North America. His skills and expertise span every stage of undersea cable development and operation, from feasibility and traffic studies through to business plans, M&A advisories, pre-sales, installation, backhaul, and maintenance.

Nicole Starosielski

Nicole Starosielski, Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, is the author or co-editor of over thirty articles and five books on media, infrastructure, and environments, including The Undersea Network (2015), a book about the history and cultures of the subsea cable industry. Starosielski's most recent project, the SupOptic Foundation’s Sustainable Subsea Networks research initiative, focuses on the sustainability of digital infrastructures.