Comm tech giants push subsea cable agenda

Jun 30, 2016, 3:21 PM EDT
(Source: Naval Surface Warriors/flickr)
(Source: Naval Surface Warriors/flickr)

From the sky to the sea, Google now seems to have entrenched itself in communications technology infrastructure on all levels. The company’s undersea cable, built in conjunction with a few other companies, went online Wednesday night, and establishes up to 60 Terabits per second (Tbps) of bandwidth between the west coast of the U.S. and Japan.

The FASTER cable system stretches from Oregon to two landing points in Japan, and was built by NEC alongside Google, China Mobile, China Telecom, Global Transit, KDDI, and SingTel. Kenichi Yoneyama, Project Manager for FASTER at NEC's Submarine Network Division, said in a statement

This was the first trans-Pacific submarine cable built solely by NEC Corporation, employing the latest 100Gbps digital coherent optical transmission technology…This epoch-making cable will not only bring benefits to the United States and Japan, but to the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Google is preparing to launch a new Google Cloud Platform East Asia region in Tokyo later this year, and the FASTER system will help deliver the necessary bandwidth for that project. The company’s statement regarding the FASTER launch reads:

We'll use this capacity to support our users, including Google Apps and Cloud Platform customers. This is the highest-capacity undersea cable ever built — about ten million times faster than your average cable modem…

Google says the FASTER cable system brings the number of Google-owned undersea cables up to four, but on its heels are Microsoft and Facebook with a subsea cable project that will extend from from Virginia Beach, U.S. to Bilbao, Spain. Announced in May, the MAREA cable will top FASTER’s speeds, with capacities of 160Tbps. 

While FASTER will trump MAREA in terms of length (the cables will span 9,000km and 6,000km respectively), these two cable systems are more significant as emblems of consumer-facing companies now having firm footholds in the subsea cable markets — once the domain of networking giants. But as companies like Google and Facebook dip their hands in multipe pots — indeed, both are well-established in networking now — everything from internet delivery via balloon to bandwidth expansion under the sea floor seems to be in their spheres of operation. After all, these communications tech giants are pioneers in cloud computing, and no cloud can boast connectivity without a hardware cable somewhere to back it up.