Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Facebook and Google unite to develop transpacific cables

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 29 March 21

The Echo and Bifrost cables will connect the US to South-East Asia

Today, Facebook and Google have announced plans to launch two new transpacific cables, dubbed Echo and Bifrost, to link the West coast of the US with parts of Indonesia for the first time. Both of the cables will span around 15,000 km, linking the US to Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines via Guam. Bifrost is a joint project between Facebook, KEPPEL Telecommunications &…

Today, Facebook and Google have announced plans to launch two new transpacific cables, dubbed Echo and Bifrost, to link the West coast of the US with parts of Indonesia for the first time.

Both of the cables will span around 15,000 km, linking the US to Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines via Guam. Bifrost is a joint project between Facebook, KEPPEL Telecommunications & Transportation, and Telkom Indonesia, while Echo will see Facebook combine, not for the first time, with Google, as well as Axiata. 

Notable for these cable’s development is their meandering paths through the many islands of south-east Asia, which will traverse the Java and Celebes Seas, helping to provide internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability throughout the region.

“Named Echo and Bifrost, those will be the first two cables to go through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea and they will increase overall subsea capacity in the transpacific by about 70%,"said Kevin Salvadori, Facebook’s vice president of network investments.

Echo is expected to be complete in 2023, while Bifrost is targeting an operational deadline of 2024.

The costs of these cables have not been revealed. 

For Facebook, Indonesia and the surrounding region represent a rapidly growing market in which improved connectivity will be key for long-term revenue generation. For a number of years now, hyperscalers such as Facebook have been conducting various projects to improve the regions infrastructure, with Facebook noting that they recently partnered with Indonesia’s Alita to deploy 3,000km of metro fibre across 20 cities in Bali, Java, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi.

Facebook and Google are currently involved in a flurry of submarine cable network builds, as rapid digitalisation continues to increase demand around the world. Emerging markets like those in South-East Asia continue to be a major target, as does Africa.

However, ongoing tensions between the US and China are making the submarine cable industry difficult to navigate of late. Last year, the Pacific Light Cable, a joint project by Facebook and Google linking the US to Taiwan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong, was delayed when the US government objected to the activation of Hong Kong link. Similarly, just three weeks ago, Facebook cancelled plans for its Hong Kong–Americas cable over similar objections by the government.

Communications infrastructure is becoming increasingly politicised, and submarine cables are no exception.

As always, the Echo and Bifrost projects will need to receive regulatory approval before construction can begin.

 

How will these transpacific cables change the submarine network ecosystem for the 2020s? Find out from the experts at this year's live Submarine Networks EMEA conference

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