Google Buys A Piece Of Transpacific Cable

Google is buying a piece of a new transpacific fiber optic cable, according to research firm TeleGeography. This will be yet another piece of what can be loosely described as GoogleNet, a fiber network built and leased by the search engine and advertising giant to meet its ever-growing bandwidth requirements. Google is one of the six investors in the “Unity” undersea cable that will connect the U.S. and Japan. The new cable is going to be built by Tyco Telecommunications and NEC for about $300 million.

TeleGeography says that Google has been trying to buy a piece of a transpacific cable for a while now. Google CEO Eric Schmidt had admitted to as much a few months back. I have written about how Google is using its infrastructure (including network) as a strategic advantage, and this latest move is an extension of that philosophy. It has been buying dark fiber to grow its network, as I had first reported back in 2005.

TeleGeography estimates that transpacific bandwidth is eight times higher than transatlantic routes. Google can now get capacity at cost, and it can also squeeze more out of its infrastructure. Our good friend Alan Maudlin, TeleGeography research director, doesn’t think this is going to start a trend.

“While Google is the first non-telecom company to take an active role in ownership of a submarine cable, it’s not likely that this is the beginning of a new trend,” commented TeleGeography Research Director Alan Mauldin. “Although many non-telecom companies have high bandwidth requirements, few will venture into owning submarine cables anytime soon.”

Update: Google’s manager of network acquisitions, Francois Sterin, on their blog writes about why they chose to invest in the Unity cable.

As more and more people conduct online searches and interact with applications like Gmail, Google Earth and YouTube, we’ve had to think outside the box to create a more scalable, affordable and easy to manage network that meets our users’ needs worldwide. One of the biggest challenges we face is staying ahead of our broadband capacity needs, especially across Asia.

This is the first time Google has admitted to building and buying fiber to build their own network. I have often received denials from their PR folks, but I guess my sources were better.

If you’re wondering whether we’re going into the undersea cable business, the answer is no. We’re not competing with telecom providers, but the volume of data we need to move around the world has grown to the point where in some cases we’ve exceeded the ability traditional players can offer. Our partnership with these companies is just another step in ensuring that we’re delivering the best possible experience to people around the world.

Update #2: Google press release has some details about the Unity Cable.

The Unity consortium is a joint effort by Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, Google, KDDI Corporation, Pacnet and SingTel. The name Unity was chosen to signify a new type of consortium, born out of potentially competing systems, to emerge as a system within a system, offering ownership and management of individual fiber pairs.

This new 10,000 kilometer (km) Trans–Pacific cable will provide connectivity between Chikura, located off the coast near Tokyo, to Los Angeles and other West Coast network points of presence. At Chikura, Unity will be seamlessly connected to other cable systems, further enhancing connectivity into Asia.