Cable Communications developed alongside the expansion of the British Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria.
The first successful use of working telegraph was about the time that Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1841. By 1850 it was already emerging as a commercially viable means of communication, with the initial cables being across the English Channel. By 1866 the first transatlantic cable had been laid, and the British were actively pushing to link up the far-flung edges of the Empire.
The British authorities encourage the development of what was then called the Red Route, an unbroken chain of cables linking all of the Empire. To avoid hostile interference these cables were not laid on potentially hostile land, relying mainly on submarine cables. Between 1850 and 1911 the British were preeminent in promoting these cable network. The plan below shows the British cable network of the Eastern Telegraph Company in about 1901. (More maps of cable routes can be seen at https://atlantic-cable.com/Maps/index.htm .
By 1907 there were at least two, all British, cable routes between the United Kingdom and Australia:
- Eastern Telegraph Company from Porthcurno-St Helena-Ascension-Durban then Eastern Extension Telegraph Company to Mauritius to Freemantle, Australia. Variations on this route as far as Durban.
- Eastern Telegraph Company from Porthcurno-Gibraltar-Malta-Egypt-Aden then Eastern & South African Telegraph Company to Seychelles-Mauritius-Fremantle. Part of Egyptian stretch not under British control).
There were numerous alternate routes not under British control. The Emergency Routes was transatlantic cable to Canada or New York, land line to San Francisco then cable through Guam and the Philippines and on to Australia.