Facebook, Google to connect Southeast Asia & America with undersea cable

By Amirtha P S, Trainee Reporter
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Facebook has planned two new undersea cables to link Singapore, Indonesia, and North America joining with Google and regional telecommunication companies to improve internet connection capacity between the regions.

According to Facebook’s Vice President of Network Investments, Kevin Salvadori, the cables will be the first to directly link North America to some of the main parts of Indonesia and will increase connectivity for the central and eastern provinces of the world’s fourth most populous country.

“Named Echo and Bifrost, those will be the first two cables to go through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea and they will increase overall subsea capacity in the trans-pacific by about 70 percent,” Mr.Salvadori, stated.

Even though Mr. Salvadori declined to reveal the size of the investment involved in this project, he said it was “a very material investment for us in Southeast Asia.”

Mr. Salvadori said that “Echo” is being built in partnership with Alphabet’s Google and Indonesian telecommunications’ company XL Axiata and it is expected to be completed by 2023. While, Bifrost is done by joining with Telin, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Telkomsel, and Singaporean conglomerate Keppel and it is due to start functioning by 2024.

The two cables, which will need regulatory approval, follow previous investments by Facebook to build up connectivity in Indonesia, one of its top five markets globally.

According to a 2020 survey by the Indonesian Internet Providers Association, 73 percent of Indonesia’s population of 270 million are online and the majority of them access the web through mobile data, with less than 10 percent using a broadband connection.

Last year, Facebook said it would deploy 3,000 km of fiber in Indonesia across twenty cities in addition to a previous deal to develop public Wi-Fi hot spots.

Apart from the Southeast Asian cables, Facebook was continuing with its broader subsea plans in Asia and across the globe, including with the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), Mr. Salvadori said.

The 12,800 km PLCN, funded by Facebook and Alphabet, had confronted the US government’s resistance over plans for a Hong Kong conduit. It was originally designed to link the US, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Earlier this month, Facebook said that it would drop efforts to connect the cable between California and Hong Kong due to ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communication links between the US and Hong Kong.

Related: Facebook, Google CEOs propose measures to reform internet law

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