Facebook and Google Are Funding New Undersea Internet Cables Between US and Southeast Asia

Facebook and Google Are Funding New Undersea Internet Cables Between US and Southeast Asia

Facebook and Google have continued their push to install undersea cable internet that will power cross-border efficient internet.

Facebook announced on Monday it planned two new undersea cables to connect Singapore, Indonesia and North America in a project with Google and regional telecommunication companies to boost internet connection capacity between the regions.

“We are announcing two vital new subsea cables to connect Singapore, Indonesia, and North America,” Facebook said in a blog post on Sunday. “We are committed to bringing more people online to a faster internet. As part of this effort, we’re proud to announce that we have partnered with leading regional and global partners to build two new subsea cables – Echo and Bitfrost – that will provide vital new connections between Asia-Pacific region and North America.”

It will be the first transpacific cables through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea and will increase overall transpacific capacity by 70 percent, the statement said.

The need for reliable internet was highlighted by COVID-19 pandemic as the world shifts to digital life, increasing demand for 4G and 5G broadband access, significantly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Facebook said Echo and Bitfrost will support further growth for hundreds of millions of people and millions of businesses.

“We Know that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for people and businesses,” the social media firm said.

Facebook Vice President of Network Investments, Kevin Salvadori, told Reuters that the cables will be the first to directly connect North America to some of the main parts of Indonesia, and will increase connectivity for the central and eastern provinces of the world’s fourth most populous country.

Salvadori said “Echo” is being built in partnership with Alphabet’s Google and Indonesian telecommunications’ company XL Axiata and should be completed by 2023.

Bifrost, which is being done in partnership with Telin, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Telkom, and Singaporean conglomerate Keppel is due to be completed by 2024.

The two cables, which will need regulatory approval, follow previous investments by Facebook to build up connectivity in Indonesia, one of its top five markets globally.

While 73% of Indonesia’s population of 270 million are online, the majority access the web through mobile data, with less than 10 percent using a broadband connection, according to a 2020 survey by the Indonesian Internet Providers Association.

Swathes of the country, remain without any internet access.

Facebook said last year it would deploy 3,000 km (1,8641 miles) of fibre in Indonesia across twenty cities in addition to a previous deal to develop public Wi-Fi hot spots.

Aside from the Southeast Asian cables, Facebook was continuing with its broader subsea plans in Asia and globally, including with the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), Salvadori said.

“We are working with partners and regulators to meet all of the concerns that people have, and we look forward to that cable being a valuable, productive transpacific cable going forward in the near future,” he said.

Reuter reported that the 12,800 km PLCN, which is being funded by Facebook and Alphabet, had met U.S government resistance over plans for a Hong Kong conduit. It was originally intended to link the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Facebook said earlier this month it would drop efforts to connect the cable between California and Hong Kong called “the Hong Kong-Americas project,” due to “ongoing concerns from the U.S. government about direct communication links between the United States and Hong Kong”.

Trump administration’s security concerns about laying cables to China forced Facebook to drop a joint cable project it had with Google in September.

But other undersea cable projects have continued. Facebook is also laying network cables around Africa, while Google is working on cables that will link the US and Europe as well as Europe with the west coast of Africa.

The projects, named 2Africa and Equiano are expected to go live in 2023 or 2024

At 37,000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia),and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa.

The Equaino will start in Western Europe and run along the West Coast of Africa, between Portugal and South Africa with branching units along the way that can be used to extend connectivity to additional African countries. The first branch is expected to land in Nigeria.

It is now a race between American big tech to control internet service. With SpaceX’s Starlink already having 1200 satellites in space and Amazon’s satellite project known as Kuiper, planning to launch 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit, future internet service is gradually drifting from the grip of telecom service providers.

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