Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Facebook pulls plug on Hong Kong subsea project over US–China tensions

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 11 March 21

The tech giant was seeking clearance from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a trans-Pacific cable linking Hong Kong to California

A Facebook-led project to build a new submarine cable between California and Hong Kong has been halted due to US governmental concerns over national security.    The Hong Kong Americas (HKA) cable had been planned by a Facebook-led consortium since 2018, with partners including Tata Communications, Telstra and the Chinese state…

A Facebook-led project to build a new submarine cable between California and Hong Kong has been halted due to US governmental concerns over national security. 
 
The Hong Kong Americas (HKA) cable had been planned by a Facebook-led consortium since 2018, with partners including Tata Communications, Telstra and the Chinese state-owned China Unicom and China Telecom Global Limited. Set to span more than 13,000km across the Pacific ocean, the HKA cable was vaunted as reinforcing Hong Kong as a “key communication hub in the Asia-Pacific region” by local authorities in 2020.
 
The cable was also planned to connect to Taiwan and the Philippines.
 
Now, however, it seems that the threat of such a cable to US national security is simply too large a hurdle to climb, with Facebook announcing that it has withdrawn its FCC application.
 
"Due to ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communication links between the United States and Hong Kong, we have decided to withdraw our FCC application," said a Facebook spokesperson yesterday. "We look forward to working with all the parties to reconfigure the system to meet the concerns of the US government."
 
This move is hardly surprising. Last year, Facebook and Amazon withdrew plans to build the  Bay-to-Bay Express Cable System, which would have connected the US to Singapore and Malaysia, as well as Hong Kong, over similar concerns. 
 
Likewise, last year saw Facebook and Google’s Pacific Light Cable Network only partially lit, beginning service only on the portion of the cable that connected the US to Taiwan and the Philippines, leaving the Hong Kong section dormant. The US Department of Justice said at the time that the Hong Kong landing station would present a security risk, potentially exposing “US communications traffic to collection” by the Chinese government.
 
With China tightening its political control over Hong Kong in the wake of the recent protests, the special administrative region is becoming less and less attractive as a data hub in South-East Asia. 
 

How are geopolitical tensions shaking up the submarine cable industry? Find out from the experts at this year's live Submarine Networks EMEA event
 
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