Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, a new undersea fibre-optic cable funded by Google and a consortium of Asian telecom companies went live. Appropriately dubbed Faster, the fibre cable stretches about 9,000 kilometres from Oregon to two landing spots in Japan's Chiba and Mie prefectures. The cable has "extended connections" also to major US West Coast hubs including Los Angeles, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle. According to Google, it's the fastest, highest-capacity trans-Pacific undersea cable built to date. It's expected to deliver as much as 60 Tbps of bandwidth.
Google, along with partners China Mobile International, China Telecom Global, Global Transit, KDDI, and Singtel, first announced the project in August 2014, with Japanese tech company NEC given the responsibility of overseeing laying the physical cable between continents. Google is entitled to use 10 Tbps (one-sixth) of the maximum capacity to speed communications between its data centres. The undersea cable is also expected to help make the Internet more resilient in earthquake-prone parts of Asia.
Although Google is just one of six companies participating in the consortium and not a traditional telecom firm, the Internet giant needs just as much or more bandwidth as public service providers — a clear indication that private networks have become the dominant users of international Internet cable traffic.
There's a clear logic for Google to take the lead in this project: increased connectivity worldwide means more customers for its products. Web players have cleverly focussed their attention and investments on heavily trafficked Internet corridors that tie together cities in Europe, the Americas and East Asia, where they own data centres.
It's not just Google that's actively creating a more favourable intercontinental infrastructure environment for Internet use: Facebook and Microsoft are also partnering to build a 160 Tbps trans-Atlantic undersea cable stretching from Virginia to Spain.
Large tech companies are eclipsing the bandwidth capacity of telecom operators, underscoring just how big the household tech names have become. Google and its competitors depend on active Internet usage and have every incentive to regulate the pipes that control their future.
Google's investment in inter-continental infrastructure also indicates the growing importance of Internet usage in Asia. Disconnected individuals equates to missing out on potential revenue opportunities. Underwater fibre could bring about a realisation of digital potential.