Google and Facebook to build new subsea cable for south-east Asia

16 Aug 2021

Image: © jesada/Stock.adobe.com

The new cable is expected to be ready in 2024 and will connect Singapore, Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia.

Google and Facebook have announced a new subsea cable that aims to boost internet capacity and speeds in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Apricot subsea cable system is expected to launch in 2024, subject to regulatory approval, and will connect Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.

According to Facebook, the cable will run for 12,000km and will feature an initial design capacity of more than 190TB per second to meet the rising data demands in the region.

The news follows the tech giants’ announcement earlier this year that they were working on two subsea cables, Echo and Bifrost, which will connect North America and south-east Asia.

In a statement, Google said the Echo and Apricot cables are “complementary submarine systems” that will offer benefits with multiple paths in and out of Asia.

Subsea cable investment

Subsea cables have become a vital network for data travelling around the globe. These long cables lie on the ocean floor and send data as pulses of light inside thin strands of wires, or optical fibres, within the cable.

There have been a lot of major infrastructure moves in the subsea cable industry in recent years in order to meet growing demands, with many of the major tech giants investing in new cables.

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In June, Google announced a new high-speed subsea cable between the US and Argentina, dubbed Firmina, which is due to start operations in 2023.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Amazon announced last week that they have requested approval from the US government to operate a new cable between the Philippines and California after China Mobile agreed to exit the plan.

This highlights the geopolitical tensions that can cause serious problems when it comes to the transference of data. The US has repeatedly expressed concerns about China’s role in handling network traffic and potential for espionage.

In 2020, plans for a Facebook-Google cable between the US and Hong Kong were cut after four years in the making when concerns were raised about direct communications links between these regions.

According to Reuters, a $72.6m subsea cable project led by the World Bank recently declined to award a contract to Chinese company HMN Technologies, formally known as Huawei Marine Networks, due to security concerns.

However, cables in other parts of the world are still going ahead with participation from Chinese companies.

2Africa, one of the largest subsea cable projects in the world, announced today (16 August) four new cable branches to extend its connectivity to the Seychelles, the Comoros Islands and Angola. The consortium comprises China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, STC, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and West Indian Ocean Cable Company.

Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com