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Technology Companies Driving Subsea Cable Boom: INDIGO, Google, Telstra, PCLN

29 May 2019
Subsea cables

TeleGeography’s ‘2019 State of the Network’ report forecasts a potential US $8.8 billion in new cables scheduled to come online between 2018 and 2020, of which $2.1 billion relates to new cable investments focused on the trans-Pacific route. Technology giants, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon have significantly increased their investment below sea-level with an impressive 31 subsea cables between them.

We’ve highlighted some of the latest subsea cable announcements and recent global investment activity below.

Breaking: INDIGO ‘about to go live’ between Australia and South-East Asia

Last week brought the news of the INDIGO project’s approaching launch. Bevan Slattery, Founder of Megaport, Superloop, SubPartners, NEXTDC and Cloudscene, announced in a LinkedIn post, “Eight years and 9,300km later, INDIGO Central and [INDIGO] West submarine cables are about to go live.”

The two-fibre pair ‘Open Cable’ design utilizes spectrum-sharing technology to connect Singapore to Perth (with a branching unit from Singapore to Jakarta) and Perth to Sydney. INDIGO will land in existing facilities operated by the consortium members AARnet, Google, Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel, SubPartners, and Telstra. The INDIGO cable system is expected to strengthen links between Australia and the fast-growing South East Asian markets, providing lower latency and enhanced reliability.

Google Network Subsea cable Map

Source: Google

Google continues investment push in undersea cable

Google recently announced that its Curie subsea cable project, which stretches from Los Angeles, CA to Valparaiso, Chile, successfully reached the Chile coast, about 120km northwest of Santiago. This is Google’s first fully-owned and funded intercontinental subsea cable, and they claim to also be the ‘first major non-telecom company’ to build a private international cable. While the cost of the project has not been disclosed, the New York Times estimates it could cost Google up to $350 million depending on the final length of the cable.

Google’s emergence as a non-telecom tech company with growing investments in subsea cables supports its bid to capture more of the cloud-computing, enterprise service offerings, email, and video-streaming market. Google’s investments include the Unity cable (2010), Southeast Asia Japan Cable (2013), Faster Cable (2016), Monet (2017), and Pacific Light Cable Network (2019).  

Google previously selected Equinix, the world’s leading data center company, to be Curie’s US data center endpoint. Curie, named after radioactivity pioneer, Marie Curie, will be the first submarine connection in the past two decades between the US and Chile. Google operates only one data center in Latin America, specifically in Quilicura, Chile, which is around 75 miles from the Curie cable’s Chile starting point in Valparaiso.

Curie stretches more than 6,200 miles to Equinix’s LA4 data center in California. LA4 already connects to Japan as well as other Google Cloud locations. TE Subcom, the submarine cable manufacturing and installation company in charge of deploying and maintaining the Curie cable, designed it with a branching unit for future connectivity to Panama.

The ‘Mermaid’ Cable first in almost 20 years to connect Northern Europe to the US

Announced in 2018, the Havfrue subsea cable system will connect New Jersey to Ireland and Denmark, with possible future connectivity to Norway. Named after the Danish word for mermaid, Havfrue is the first new cable system to connect Northern Europe to the United States in almost 20 years.

Havfrue will traverse the North Atlantic from the New Jersey shoreline through to Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. A branch of the cable will land in County Mayo, Ireland, with optional branch extensions to Northern and Southern Norway designed into the plan. Data center construction activity in Northern Europe is expected to benefit from Havfrue’s modern and high-capacity connection to the US mainland. This is another investment by Google along with consortium partners Facebook, Bulk Infrastructure and Aqua Comms.

PLCN lands in Los Angeles

Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), the first undersea cable that directly connects Hong Kong to the United States, achieved a major milestone in November 2018 when its cable landed at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles. This followed the opposite end termination at Deep Water Bay in Hong Kong in March 2018.

The link is designed to provide a high-speed, high availability and low latency connection between Asia and the United States. With capacity up to 144Tbps, PLCN is expected to play an important part in enabling the high internet traffic growth forecast for the Asia Pacific.

Hong Kong is establishing itself as a backbone node for technology giants, following Amazon’s launch of a new AWS Direct Connect Location and Google’s newly established Google Cloud Platform (GCP) region in Hong Kong.

The PLCN cable is co-owned by Google, Facebook and Pacific Light Data Communication Co. Ltd., which is a subsidiary of China Soft Power Technology Holdings. PLCN is expected to be completed in Q3, 2019.  

Telstra boosts US to Asia links

Leading Australian telco, Telstra, announced in January 2019 that it was adding new capacity to its network to boost connectivity between the United States and Asia. The announcement covered Telstra’s large-capacity purchase on the New Cross Pacific (NCP) cable alongside additional funding in the Faster cable, which stretches between the US and Japan.

These moves follow Telstra’s 2015 purchase of Pacnet, and its purchase in late 2018 of a 25 percent stake in Southern Cross Cable Network (SCCN). Over the past year, Telstra has moved to boost its Asia to US operations with investments in the Hong Kong Americas (HKA) cable and a 6Tb capacity purchase in the Pacific Light Cable Networks (PLCN). Both cables are due for completion in 2020.

Link Australia and Hong Kong announced at SubOptic 2019

Singapore-based H2 Cable and leading undersea cable data transport provider, SubCom, announced during SubOptic 2019 their agreement to supply and install undersea cable to link Australia and Hong Kong .

The system will have direct access to China as well as provide future branches to locations including Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Guam, Queensland, Hawaii and Los Angeles.

The Sydney to Hong Kong cable branch is projected to have a capacity of 15 Tbps per fiber pair, with the Sydney to Los Angeles branch boasting 12.9 Tbps per fiber pair. Additionally, the Sydney to Los Angeles branch will provide redundancy, as the route will be different from any other cable before it.

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