Google has continued its push to provide global affordable internet. The internet giant announced Tuesday that it is setting up a new undersea fiber-optic cable between the US, the UK and Spain.
The company said the project, named Grace Hopper, after the American programming pioneer, will provide “better resilience for the network that underpins Google’s consumer and enterprise products,” as it will incorporate new technology into the cable, which has a significant upgrade compared with existing lines.
The existing lines have been laid from 1858 to 2003. Vice president of Google’s Global Network Bikash Koley said the new lines will renew the network connection between the US and the UK.
“Once commissioned, the Grace Hopper cable will be one of the first new cables to connect the US and UK since 2003, increasing capacity on this busy global crossroads and powering Google services like Meet, Gmail and Google Cloud.
“It also marks our first investment in a private subsea cable route to the UK, and our first-ever route to Spain. The Spanish landing point will more tightly integrate the upcoming Google Cloud region in Madrid into our global infrastructure,” Koley said.
The project is expected to be completed in 2022. Google said it will incorporate “novel optical fiber switching” that will help the movement of traffic around internet outages more completely. Koley said the new lines will have 16 fiber pairs (32 fibers), which is a significant upgrade to the internet infrastructure connecting the US and the UK.
The project will commence in the US, where the cable will be laid along the ocean floor from New York to the Cornish seaside resort town of Bude, Cornwall in the UK and Bilbao Spain. It is expected to run 6,300 km from the US to Spain.
Underwater cables have become so vital to global internet communication infrastructure. Google estimates that 98% of the world’s data will pass through undersea cables, which will make it possible to rapidly send and receive information around the world.
The cables, which are usually built by communication firms, are becoming a new way tech companies are using to fix the global internet friction. The Grace Hopper is Google’s fourth privately owned undersea cable.
The disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic exposed the need for a stronger internet infrastructure, as it forces the world to go virtual and carry out many activities via the internet.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on connectivity, highlighting how ingrained it is in our daily lives. These challenging times have taught us that a stable and reliable network is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but business critical,” said Tom Meyer, a general manager and group vice president at technology analyst firm IDC Europe.
“Naturally, investment into infrastructure is a major priority, particularly as connectivity becomes an ever-increasing necessity going forward,” Mersey added.
However, the undersea cable project has come at high cost as it does with advantages. John Delaney from telecoms analyst IDC said Google needs “an ever-increasing amount of transatlantic bandwidth” to keep the cable effective.
“Building its own cables helps them choose cable routes that are most optimal and near data centers,” said Delaney. “It also minimizes operational expenditure by reducing the need to pay telcos and other third-party cable owners for the use of their infrastructure.
The infrastructure comes also with a hefty maintenance responsibility to keep the cable effective and network reliable.
“It’s not enough to have a single cable because any element in the network can break from time to time, and if it’s 8,000 meters under the sea, it takes a while to repair,” said Jayne Stowell, who oversees construction of Google’s undersea cable projects.
On the other hand, Facebook announced in May it’s building an undersea cable to boost African network infrastructure. The project dubbed 2Africa, will cover 37,000 km (about 22,991 miles). Facebook said the cable will be “nearly equal to the circumference of the Earth.”
The project is expected to be completed by 2024, and provide faster internet for the 1.3 billion people in the continent. Africa is the least internet-enabled continent with only four in 10 people having access to the web.
With a boisterous median population and emerging markets, Africa needs a better internet infrastructure for future economic growth.
As poor infrastructure and unfriendly business policies keep stymieing the efforts of local telecom operators to provide reliable internet service, big tech companies are stepping into position to provide reliable internet through undersea cable network.