New Internet Cable to Asia Almost Ready

Google and a group of telecommunications companies are about ready to turn on a fast Internet cable running under the Pacific Ocean from the U.S. to Japan, increasing bandwidth by about 20 percent and giving Google its own connection to Asia.

The Unity Consortium, which consists of Google, Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, KDDI, Pacnet, and SingTel, has nearly completed the testing of the $300 million project. Internet users in Asia will start seeing faster Internet speeds over the next several months from the new cable, which has the potential to create a 7.68Tbps (terabits per second) connection under the Pacific.

In return for its investment--the amount of which was not disclosed--Google is entitled to 20 percent of the overall capacity for its needs, according to partners involved with the project. Google is one of the largest users of bandwidth on the planet, if not the largest, and invested in the project in 2008 to help satisfy those needs on one of the critical routes for Internet traffic.

"The need for information is a global requirement. As the economies of Asian countries continue to grow, data traffic and the use of the Internet expands. Google is a global company and is committed to providing the best quality of user experience regardless of geography," the company said in a statement Thursday.

Google is expected to formally announce the completion of the project next week.

Internet companies need bandwidth to provide their services, and usually have to rent that from the companies that build and maintain the cables and network connections. That's expensive, which is why Google and several telecommunications companies asked Pacnet to help build the cable, said Bill Barney, Pacnet's CEO. Pacnet, a telecom provider in Asia, invested $100 million in the project, with the remaining partners spreading the $200 million investment among themselves.

"Every business on the Internet today has a challenge," Barney said. "They're trying to build for the long term, and nobody knows how the Internet is going to morph."

Several years ago the U.S-Atlantic Internet routes were extremely important but Asia is poised to explode as a source of Internet traffic, and the cable systems connecting the U.S. and that continent were outdated prior to this project, Barney said. And if Internet-delivered voice and video services increase, bandwidth requirements will soar.

Google obviously wants to serve those users, its pending decision in China notwithstanding. The new cable will allow Google to make a long-term investment in providing services to Asia. "Once you buy fiber, you own it for the rest of your life. It's like launching a satellite," Barney said.

That doesn't mean Google is going to use that capacity to become an Internet service provider to Asia, a prospect it's exploring in the U.S. with its recently announced fiber-to-the-home project. But the Pacific undertaking will allow the company to link its data centers in the U.S. and Japan with one of the fastest pipes on the planet, ensuring that Google services will be delivered quickly and cheaply to Asia.

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