Thursday, August 20, 2009

Industry Along the Piscataqua River - Tyco Telecommunications

My regular Internet reading list includes a handful of overseas publications, such as the Financial Times and The Economist.  When I load these sites in my web browser, or watch the occasional web video, there's seldom any noticeable delay, even though the data had to travel halfway across the world.  High speed transglobal communication is so ubiquitous that we barely pay notice to the amazing technology it takes to get the job done.

Tyco Telecommunications undersea cable plant - Newington, NH

It turns out, there's a manufacturing facility along the banks of the Piscataqua River in Newington, NH that played a major role in stitching together our global communications infrastructure. That facility is the Tyco Telecommunications undersea cable plant.

Tyco's Newington facility manufactures the so-called wet-plant components of undersea telecommunications cable systems.  This includes undersea cable and devices called repeaters that help keep the communication signals strong enough to reach their final destination.  

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The Newington plant has over 550,000 sq ft of manufacturing space and employs between 100-200 workers.  The facility also includes a deep water pier that allows direct ship loading of the cable that they make at the plant.

Deep water pier on the Piscataqua allows direct ship loading of undersea cable

Tyco's corporate website boasts that the company has installed over 420,000 kilometers of undersea cable worldwide.  That's enough cable to wrap the globe ten  times.  In addition, the company recently completed testing of a new cable system capable of transmitting data at 40 gigabits per second.  Just to put that into perspective, a 40 gigabit per second communications link could carry over half a million telephone calls,  over 50,000 simultaneous music streams, or over 5,000 HD video streams.

Unfortunately, despite these amazing technological achievements, the story of undersea cable manufacturing in NH is not all good news.  The crash of the tech bubble in the early 2000s, coupled with global telecommunications overcapacity that persists today, has resulted in several tough years for the folks at Tyco's Newington plant.  Tyco's footprint in NH, which at one time included over 1,500 workers at facilities in both Exeter and Newington, has shrunk to just 200 or so workers in Newington alone.

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