Google, Facebook Partner on L.A.-to-Hong Kong Fiber Cable

Each party can select its optical equipment independently, allowing users to choose from a variety of network equipment that will be interoperable with the system.

Google and Facebook, head-butting competitors in the online advertising business, shook hands Oct. 12 to go into the fiberoptic cable business together.

The two web services giants, whose campuses are located only a few miles from each other on the San Francisco Bay, are working together to lay a nearly 8,000-mile cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong that is scheduled to go into service in 2018.

Brian Quigley, Google's Director of Networking Infrastructure, wrote in a blog post that the new Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) will have 12,800 km of fiber and an estimated cable bandwidth of 120 terabits per second, which will double the speed of the current highest-capacity trans-Pacific route, a record currently held by another Google-backed cable system, FASTER.

To see a larger image of the cable line, right click on the image at above left and select "View Image."

FASTER connects Japan with hubs on the U.S. West Coast and other Asian locations. The FASTER consortium is comprised of China Mobile International, China Telecom Global, Global Transit, Google, KDDI and SingTel.

Network Will Optimize All Web Services on It

The new Pacific Light Cable Network is designed to enable Google and Facebook to offer faster and more reliable service to users on both sides of the Pacific. The PLCN could eventually also be used to transport other data, from public and/or private data networks, once it goes into deployment.

Quigley said that this is the sixth submarine cable in which Google has an ownership stake; these include previous projects with Unity, SJC, FASTER, MONET and Tannat.

"From the get-go, PLCN is designed to accommodate evolving infrastructure technology, allowing us to independently choose network equipment and refresh optical technology as it advances," Quigley said. "Most importantly, PLCN will bring lower latency, more security and greater bandwidth to Google users in the APAC region.

"In addition to our existing investments in APAC cloud regions and the FASTER cable system, PLCN expands our ability to serve people in Asia, including Google Cloud and G Suite customers. Nei Hou, Hong Kong! We can't wait to link up with you!"

This isn't Facebook's first submarine cable project, either. The social network recently partnered with Microsoft to build an equally fast cable across the Atlantic several months ago.

Will Aid Growing Traffic in Facebook Network

"As the number of people using Facebook apps and services continues to grow in the region, PLCN will help further connect Asia and our data centers in the U.S.," Facebook's Najam Ahmad wrote in a blog post.

"PLCN will be a flexible cable system. Prior to this year, anyone deploying a new subsea cable would do so on a turnkey basis, with the system vendor providing the initial optical equipment based on whatever technology was available at the time the cable was contracted. Comparatively, the commercial and technical approach on this cable allows for independence between the wet plant and the optical technology."

Each party can select its optical equipment independently, allowing users to choose from a variety of network equipment that will be interoperable with the system, Ahmad said.

"This means equipment refreshes can occur as optical technology improves, including taking advantage of advances made during the construction of the system. When equipment can be replaced by better technology at a quicker pace, costs should go down and bandwidth rates should increase more quickly," Ahmad said.

Construction of the cable project will begin before the end of this year, Ahmad said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...