Google, Facebook to build 12,800km undersea cable

The project is the sixth submarine cable network backed by Google.

Google and Facebook are part of a team that will co-build a 12,800km trans-Pacific submarine cable system connecting Hong Kong to Los Angeles. 

The two Silicon Valley giants are co-investors in the project. New York-listed technology company TE Connectivity, with its subsidiary TE SubCom, will supply equipment for the network. Hong Kong-based Pacific Light Data Communication (PLDC), a newly established broadband business, will build and operate the project. 

Scheduled for commercial launch in mid-2018, the Pacific Light Cable Network will have an estimated capacity of 120Tbps, making it the highest-capacity trans-Pacific route. The speed is double that of Google’s previous investment in long-haul undersea fibre optic – the FASTER Cable System connecting Japan to the US. 

The network would provide enough capacity for Hong Kong to have 80 million high-quality video conference calls with Los Angeles at the same time, according to a blog post by Brian Quigley, director of Google’s networking infrastructure. 

This is the sixth submarine cable project in which Google has an ownership stake, Brian said, arguing that Google’s cloud platform has “the largest network backbone of any public cloud provider”. 

The group started investing in undersea cables in 2008. Its portfolio now consists of the Unity, SJC, FASTER, MONET and Tannat projects. It said in March that the cloud platform would be adding more than 10 additional locations to the network through 2017.

“The project will be among the lowest-latency fibre optic routes between Hong Kong and the US and the first to connect directly using ultra-high capacity transmission,” added Wei Junkang, chairman of PLDC, in a joint statement. 

Facebook has also been active on that front, teaming up with Microsoft in May to build a subsea cable across the Atlantic. The 6,600km project, to be operated and managed by Telxius, Telefónica's new telecoms infrastructure company, will be the first to connect the US to southern Europe.