Facebook has revealed plans to build two new subsea cables between the Asia-Pacific region and North America, called Echo and Bifrost. The social media giant also revealed partnerships with Google as well as Asian telecoms operators for the project.
Although these projects are still subject to regulatory approvals, when completed, these cables will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability. The transpacific cables will follow a “new diverse route crossing the Java Sea, connecting Singapore, Indonesia, and North America,” and are expected to increase overall transpacific capacity by 70%.
Facebook says Echo and Bifrost will support further growth for hundreds of millions of people and millions of businesses. Facebook said that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for people and businesses.
Echo and Bifrost be the first transpacific cables through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea. Connecting Singapore, Indonesia, and North America, these cable investments reflect Facebook’s commitment to openness and our innovative partnership model. The social media company works with a variety of leading Indonesian and global partners to ensure that everyone benefits from developing scale infrastructure and shared technology expertise.
Facebook will work with partners such as Indonesian companies Telin and XL Axiata and Singapore-based Keppel on these projects.
Image Credit: Facebook
Kevin Salvadori, VP of network investments at Facebook, provided further details in an interview with Reuters. He said Echo is being built in partnership with Alphabet’s Google and XL Axiata. It should be completed by 2023. Bifrost partners include Telin, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Telkom, and Keppel. It is due to be completed by 2024.
Aside from the Southeast Asian cables, Facebook was continuing with its broader subsea plans in Asia and globally, including with the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), Salvadori said.
“We are working with partners and regulators to meet all of the concerns that people have, and we look forward to that cable being a valuable, productive transpacific cable going forward in the near future,” he said.
Facebook noted that Echo and Bifrost will complement the subsea cables serving Indonesia today. These investments present an opportunity to enhance connectivity in the Central and Eastern Indonesian provinces, providing greater capacity and improved reliability for Indonesia’s international data information infrastructure. Echo and Bifrost complement the subsea cables serving Indonesia today, increasing service quality and supporting the country’s connectivity demands.
This is all part of Facebook’s continued effort to collaborate with partners in Indonesia to expand access to broadband internet and lower the cost of connectivity. Facebook has partnered with Alita, an Indonesian telecom network provider, to deploy 3,000 kilometers (1,8641 miles) of metro fiber in 20 cities in Bali, Java, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi. In addition, we are improving connectivity by expanding Wi-Fi with Express Wi-Fi.
While 73% of Indonesia’s population of 270 million are online, the majority access the web through mobile data, with less than 10 percent using a broadband connection, according to a 2020 survey by the Indonesian Internet Providers Association. Swathes of the country, remain without any internet access.
In Singapore, Echo and Bifrost are expected to provide extra subsea capacity to complement the APG and SJC-2 subsea cables. Building on Facebook’s previously announced Singapore data center investments, Echo and Bifrost will provide important diverse subsea capacity to power Singapore’s digital growth and connectivity hub. Singapore is also home to many of Facebook’s regional teams.
The Asia-Pacific region is very important to Facebook. In order to bring more people online to a faster internet, these new projects add to Facebook’s foundational regional investments in infrastructure and partnerships to improve connectivity to help close the digital divide and strengthen economies.
Equinix and Vodafone have announced plans to build a new subsea cable hub in the northern Italian port of Genoa, to be called GN1.
Under the deal, Vodafone will land the 2Africa cable system at Genoa and use Equinix’s GN1 facility as a strategic interconnection point for the subsea cable system, with a connection on to Milan and the rest of Europe.
The partners said the EUR 1 billion 2Africa cable will be ready for service in 2023, a 37,000 km system circumnavigating the continent of Africa and directly connecting 16 countries in Africa to Europe and the Middle East, with a design capacity of up to 180 Tbps on key segments. To facilitate interconnection, GN1 will have a direct fiber connection to ML5, the soon-to-be opened Equinix flagship data center in Milan.
The newly-announced GN1 hub will be Genoa’s first carrier-neutral data center, offering customers secure colocation and interconnection services, as well as the ability to directly tap into Equinix’s digital ecosystems and colocation facilities in Milan. It will provide a capacity of 150 cabinet equivalents, and colocation space of around 560 square meters.
The combination of 2Africa’s landing in the new Genoa site and the direct connection to Milan means GN1 will offer a new, complementary and diverse alternative option for the Mediterranean region. As Genoa’s first carrier-neutral data center, GN1 will offer customers secure, resilient colocation and interconnection services, as well as the ability to directly leverage Equinix’s digital ecosystems and colocation facilities in Milan. It will provide a capacity of 150 cabinet equivalents, and colocation space of approximately 6,000 square feet (560 square meters).
2Africa is expected to deliver more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today, with a design capacity of up to 180 Tbps on key segments of the system. This will be vital to help build a digital society ready for services that require a large amount of data transfer, such as cloud computing or video.
The need for robust digital infrastructures can be seen across the world, and Africa is no exception. The continent is experiencing a critical period of digital transformation and development of its digital economy. In the next few years, digital technologies are expected to be a factor in improving African people’s quality of life and driving economic development in the region.
The GSMA predicts that the number of mobile internet users in Africa will continue to grow rapidly, primarily due to the popularization of smartphones and lack of fixed-line infrastructure, which has led to a boom of new services such as mobile payment, instant messaging, online streaming media and short video.
- The 2Africa project includes partners from China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC. The cable system will underpin digitization across the African continent by bringing greater capacity, quality and availability of internet connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world.
- Responsibility for landing the 2Africa cable is split between the 2Africa parties depending on location. Vodafone is leading all European landings, along with selected other sites.
- As the home of the interconnected cloud®, Equinix is a natural destination for subsea cable systems and a gateway to new opportunities for system operators and their customers. Equinix hosts over 2,950 cloud and IT service providers on its global platform and can support subsea cable systems in 40 subsea-enabled metros around the world. When subsea cable systems are linked to cloud and content ecosystems on Platform Equinix®, users can access a variety of scalable cloud services almost anywhere they need to be. And because Equinix is carrier-neutral, subsea system operators can offer excess network capacity to customers who otherwise couldn’t as quickly or efficiently reach the markets being served by new subsea architectures.
- GN1 is being built in line with global environmental standards and will contribute to a portfolio of some of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. Indeed, GN1 is expected to utilize 100% renewable energy. As the world’s digital infrastructure company, Equinix is working to protect, connect and power a more sustainable digital world by proactively addressing its ESG impacts. Equinix recently scored the highest rating on its first response to the DPP’s Committed to Sustainability survey, and joined European cloud infrastructure and data center providers and European trade associations to form the Climate Neutral Data Centre Operator Pact and Self-Regulatory Initiative.
- ML5 will be a new flagship International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data center in Milan that offers state-of-the-art colocation, as well as a host of advanced interconnection services—including Equinix Fabric™ and Equinix Internet Exchange®—enabling virtual interconnections to some of the largest cloud providers in the world, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Google Cloud. When opened, ML5 will provide capacity of 500 cabinet equivalents and colocation space of approximately 15,000 square feet (1,400 square meters).
- The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 4, a market study recently published by Equinix, forecasts that overall interconnection bandwidth—the measure of private connectivity for the transfer of data between organizations—will achieve a 45% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2019 to 2023, globally. The expected growth is driven by digital transformation, and specifically by greater demands from enterprises extending their digital infrastructure from centralized locations to distributed edge locations.
- Nick Gliddon, Director, Vodafone Carrier Services:
“The 2Africa project is vitally important to improving connectivity between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and will also improve intra-European connectivity. By linking Spain and Portugal directly to Genoa and Milan, the system will avoid fiber bottlenecks that naturally occur between France and Spain, further strengthening Vodafone’s Gigabit networks.”
- Emmanuel Becker, Managing Director, Italy, Equinix:
“Italy is an important growth market for Equinix in EMEA, as it’s a strategic interconnection point for the region and beyond. We are working to give our customers improved access to the expanding global subsea cable network, so they have increased opportunities to expand internationally. Thanks also to the opening of our new data center in Milan, ML5, we are creating an interconnected metro area where customers can connect with strategic business partners in Italy and across the world.”
- Eugene Bergen Henegouwen, President, EMEA, Equinix:
“I am thrilled we are adding a new metro to our EMEA portfolio. Equinix’s Genoa site provides a great landing hub for subsea cable operators, whilst at the same time boosting the digital ecosystems at our recently announced Milan flagship, ML5. Equinix continues to focus on expanding its position as a global connectivity service provider. Our commitment is always to support the increasing demands we’re seeing from companies globally to accelerate their digital transformation. We’re helping businesses connect to everything they need to succeed, and will continue to do so.”
- Marco Bucci, Mayor of Genoa City:
“We are very excited to be the host city for the new subsea hub GN1, that will serve as a landing point for the 2Africa cable in the north of Italy. Genoa is known for the central role it has played in maritime trade for many centuries. Thanks to GN1, the city will become one of the main digital harbors of Europe, and play a key role in global data transfer.”
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it has approved Google’s request to use part of an undersea cable connecting the US and Asia via Taiwan. Google agreed to operate a portion of the 8,000-mile Pacific Light Cable Network System between the US and Taiwan, while avoiding the leg of the system extending to Hong Kong.
Google and Facebook helped pay for construction of the now completed undersea cable, along with a Chinese real estate investor. U.S. regulators had previously expressed national security concerns about the Chinese investor, Beijing-based Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group Co.
Google, Facebook and telecom and undersea infrastructure developer TE SubCom and PLDC (Pacific Light Data Communication Co. Ltd.) are teaming up to build a 120 Terabits per second (Tbps), 12,800 km subsea cable that will connect Los Angeles with Taiwan, but exclude Hong Kong.
The DoJ granted a six-month authorization for using the cable after Google emphasized “an immediate need to meet internal demand for capacity between the US and Taiwan” and that without the requested temporary authority, it would likely have to seek alternative capacity at “significantly higher prices.”
After discussions with Google representatives, the DoJ concluded that the obligations undertaken by Google would be sufficient to preserve their abilities to enforce the law and protect national security. Under the terms of the security agreement, Google has agreed to a range of operational requirements, notice obligations, access and security guarantees, as well as auditing and reporting duties, among others.
Google also committed to pursuing “diversification of interconnection points in Asia,” as well as to establish network facilities that deliver traffic as close as practicable to its ultimate destination. This reflects the views of the US government that a direct cable connection between the US and Hong Kong “would pose an unacceptable risk to the national security and law enforcement interests of the United States”, the DoJ said.
More information concerning the license application and the US Justice Departments’ response is available here.
The U.S. government decision to exclude Hong Kong (see Update below) from a trans-Pacific cable was “severe blow” to the city as a telecom hub, a key industry figure said Thursday.
The DOJ said “a direct connection between the U.S. and Hong Kong would pose an unacceptable risk” to national security and law enforcement interests.
Charles Mok, the IT industry representative in the Hong Kong Legislative Council, said the decision was “not a surprise.”
It had been public knowledge for at least six months that the FCC held such views about Hong Kong and was delaying approval of the cable.
More than a month ago, Facebook and Google had amended their applications, excluding Hong Kong and terminating the cable in Taiwan, Mok pointed out.
“It is a severe blow to Hong Kong’s status as a hub for telecommunications and underseas cable in the region,” he said.
“The obvious reasons – behind what the US claims to be concerns over their national interest – must be the widely perceived deterioration of Hong Kong’s One Country Two Systems, rule of law, freedom of information and the media, and the increasing interference from China.
June 18, 2020 Update:
In a press release Wednesday, “Team Telecom” recommended the FCC deny an application to connect the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) subsea cable system between the US and Hong Kong.
FCC commissioners appear poised to accept the recommendation. “I’ll reserve judgment for now, but the detailed filing raises major questions about state influence over Chinese telecoms. In this interconnected world, network security must be paramount,” tweeted Democratic FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.
Team Telecom – officially the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector – is an organization created by President Trump in April. It’s chaired by Trump’s attorney general and includes his secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense. As the Department of Justice explained, Team Telecom formalizes a process that has existed for years, but which will “benefit from a transparent and empowered structure.”
https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-allows-google-internet-project-to-advance-only-if-hong-kong-is-cut-out-11586377674 (on-line subscription required)
The Indigo Consortium has confirmed that it has landed the Indigo Cable System, which will link Australia’s East and West coasts, in Coogoo Beach, Sydney. In September, operators launched the Indigo Cable System from Floreat Beach in Perth, on Australia’s West Coast. Once complete, the Indigo Cable System will connect Australia’s East and West Coasts and then provide onward connectivity to a number of high profile destinations in South East Asia, including, Singapore and Jakarta, Indonesia.
The 9,200km Indigo Cable System will be comprised of two fiber pairs and will be able to support data transfers of 36Tbps. The Indigo Cable Consortium is comprised of AARNet, Google, Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel, SubPartners, and Telstra.
“The landing of INDIGO Central cable by Optus is a landmark development which will boost Australia’s communications ecosystem with much-needed high-speed capacity and network diversity. Together with INDIGO West, the next generation INDIGO Central data superhighway will enhance Singtel and Optus’ subsea networks, creating a cable ring connecting Australia to Singapore, through Southeast Asia, across the Pacific and back to Australia,” said Singtel’s Vice President, Carrier Services, Group Enterprise Ooi Seng Keat.
“This new data superhighway will complement our existing global links to Asia, US, Europe, Australia and the Middle East and allow Singtel and [Australian subsidiary] Optus to meet the growing demand for bandwidth-intensive applications as well as boost network diversity and resilience.”
Telstra head of North Asia and global wholesale Paul Abfalter added that the cable will connect to the operator’s extensive terrestrial infrastructure for onward connectivity in Australia.
“Our vast subsea network is a key part of our international growth strategy and we will continue to invest in additional capacity to meet the increasing demand for data and maintain our network leadership in the Asia-Pacific region.” he said.