Google gets greenlight for Taiwan cable but with a lot of conditions

Google has been given permission to operate a subsea cable, connecting the US and Asia, but under several conditions, including that the cable cannot connect to Hong Kong.

If you cast your mind back to August 2019, you might remember a trans-pacific subsea cable which was coming under scrutiny in the US political arena. Funded by the likes of Google and Facebook, the 8,000 km cable, known as the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), was supposed to link Los Angeles with Hong Kong to provide more diversity and resiliency across the Pacific.

This was all sound, though it was another partner of the Google and Facebook who was investing in the cable which caught the attention of Congress. Pacific Light Data Communication (PLDC) is owned by Dr Peng, one of China’s largest broadband companies, though it also have potential links to the Chinese Government. These links are not incredibly overt, though that has not been a condition for judgment in the US before.

These troubles seem to be in the rear-view mirror as the US Department of Justice has suggested no other authorities should oppose Google operating part of the cable, connecting the US to Taiwan. This is only a temporary licence as all the kinks are ironed out for the permanent licence, but Google has not gotten off easily. There are several conditions attached to the operation of the cable.

Set forth in a Provisional National Security Agreement, Google has agreed several conditions with the DoJ, which is also representing the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense in the discussions. Some of the conditions, but by no means all, are as follows:

  • Within 15 days Google will have to provide detailed information outlined the cables network management information for the US-Taiwan segment, including terrestrial facilities, PLCN organizational chart, as well as descriptions of interfaces and connections to the PLCN System for service offload, disaster recovery and administrative functions
  • Any network operations centres would have to be located in the US
  • Google must have the ability to kill off the cable completely or in sections within a 24-hour period
  • There must not be any operational connections to Hong Kong
  • PLDC, the company owned by Dr Peng, will not operate any equipment or software, perform network management functions, to have access to any operations related to the US-Taiwan segment
  • The compliance monitoring agencies have the right to veto any changes Google or other investors in the cable propose

You can access the full document and all the conditions here.

There are of course plenty of conditions associated with the subsea cable, but this is a win for Google. Once Congress got a whiff of Dr Peng and a link to the Chinese Government, this could have been a dead project. Google came out with a net-gain here, even if it did have to offer a few concessions.

US DoJ has found another Chinese target

The US Department of Justice is reportedly on the verge of putting the brakes on a Google and Facebook funded Pacific subsea cable over national security concerns over a Chinese partner.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the distrust between Washington and Beijing is on the verge of spreading to another company with links to the Chinese Government. The cable will be roughly 8,000 miles long, connecting Los Angeles with Hong Kong, with an initial estimated design capacity of 120 Tbps. It has been plugged as the longest and one of the fastest worldwide.

The objective of this subsea cable is to provide more diversity and resiliency across the Pacific. Most cables across the Atlantic land in Japan, though by taking a more direct route, theoretically better performance can be realised.

In itself, this all sounds reasonable, especially if companies like Google and Facebook want to increase their presence in the region, but this isn’t what officials have issue with. It is a Chinese company called Dr Peng Telecommunication and Media Group.

Cable Network

For those who aren’t familiar with Dr Peng, this company is one of the major players in the Chinese connectivity market. In years gone, Dr Peng used to be the market leader in the broadband space, though as the state-owned entities diversified into fixed line, margins and market share was squeezed. Today, Dr Peng, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom control more than 90% of the broadband market.

With the three well-known CSPs putting more pressure on the broadband market, Dr Peng has looked to get out of the segment and diversify into new areas. This includes offering connectivity and customer care services to other telcos, it currently owns 15 data centres across China, and also, investments in subsea cables.

This is where the Department of Justice is finding issue with the trans-Pacific subsea cable. Like Huawei, Dr Peng’s ties to the Chinese Government has been deemed too close. The DoJ is citing national security concerns as the reason to put the brakes on deployment.

The deployment of this cable is currently being undertaken by Pacific Light Data Communication (PLDC), a wholly owned by Dr Peng Holding Hong Kong Limited and China Culture Silicon Valley Limited. PLDC is partnering Google and Facebook for investment in this subsea cable.

Once again, collateral damage to US firms has been ignored in the pursuit of national security. It is also perhaps another indication of the animosity between Washington and Silicon Valley. The occupant of the White House is not exactly on the friendliest of terms with the residents of Mountain View, so it should hardly come as a surprise this was not much of a consideration.

For Google and Facebook, this is unlikely to be welcome news. Offering better connections between the US and South East Asia presents significant opportunities to grow exposure and revenues in some fast-growing markets, such as Philippines, Malaysia or Indonesia. If the US firms do not capitalise, someone else will.

It seems that if this cable is to continue on its path, the parties involved would have to prove there is no way the Chinese Government could monitor, alter or stop internet traffic which would flow through it. Proving this resilience and security is going to be a very difficult task.

Another element to consider is the impact to the on-going conflict between Washington and Beijing. The Chinese Government has taken exception to US aggression against Huawei, and it is unlikely to be thrilled about another Chinese company being scrutinised in such a manner as it prevents it doing business.

For those who might have hoped an end to the trade-war might be in sight, the US Department of Justice might be about to add some more fuel to the flames.

Google continues infrastructure investment with trans-Atlantic cable

Google has continued its cloud infrastructure quest with its first private trans-Atlantic subsea cable connecting Virginia Beach in the US to the French Atlantic coast.

The cable, named Durant, is expected to become available in late 2020, adding network capacity across the Atlantic, supplementing one of the busiest routes on the internet. This will be the 13th cable Google has invested in, though it is the first Atlantic asset which will be privately owned in its entirety.

“Today, we’re announcing our newest private subsea cable project: Dunant,” said Jayne Stowell, Strategic Negotiator at Google. “This cable crosses the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia Beach in the U.S. to the French Atlantic coast, and will expand our network–already the world’s largest–to help us better serve our users and customers. The Dunant cable is expected to become available in late 2020.”

The cable itself has been named after Henri Dunant, the first Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Red Cross, and unveils another little quirk of the Google business. The Durant cable follows Curie, a cable connecting Chile to Los Angeles, which was announced in January, with Google confirming the trend will continue. Like the Android updates which follow the alphabet (funny that) and are named after sweets, the cable investments will also be named alphabetically, but after famous scientists.

There are a few to pick from when it comes to E. ‘America’s greatest inventor’ Thomas Edison could be an option, as could astronomer Arthur Eddington or Greek scientist Eratosthenes, the first person to produce a reliable, logical method to discover prime numbers. With AI as 2018’s buzzword, 1963 Nobel Prize winning neurophysiologist John Eccles could also be a good outside bet, but the safe money would have to go on Albert Einstein.

Northern Virginia has been a region receiving some attention in recent months, as aside from the cables landing on its beaches, Google has also been focusing some data centre investments in the region as well. In the escalating cloud battle, Google has some catching up to do, though AWS is largely believed to dominate this region of the states. Whether Google has the financial clout to compete against the market leader remains to be seen, but the search giant has not been scared to sign cheques in recent months.

Durant in the Atlantic and Curie in the Pacific are two serious investments being made by Google. Competitors are also involved in consortiums to build and maintain other cables around the world, though few head down the route of privately funding their own. Here, Google will have more control over capacity and the route of the cable, perhaps giving it a bit of an edge over competitors such as Microsoft and AWS who will have to compromise with partners when crossing the Atlantic.

The major cloud players are not short of cash to invest, though whether Google veering towards private investment in subsea cables kicks off a new trend remains to be seen.

Google Atlantic Cable

Google announces another subsea cable investment to boost cloud business

Google has revealed it latest investment in its Asia-Pacific in its cloud infrastructure with the Japan-Guam-Australia (JGA) Cable System to connect Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore.

The internet giant has been solidly ramping up its cloud business over the last few years, with this investment building on an announcement in January, which added five new data centres to the map and three subsea cables. The cable investments provide improved connectivity to Google’s five cloud regions across Asia and Australia.

“This new addition to the Google submarine network family, combined with investments in the  Indigo, HK-G and SJC subsea cables, will give GCP users access to scalable, diverse capacity on the lowest latency routes via a constellation of cables forming a ring between the key markets of Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore,” said Michael Francois of the Global Network Infrastructure team.

“Our investment in these cables builds on our other APAC cable systems, namely Unity, Faster and PLCN, interconnecting the United States with Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.”

The system will have two fiber pairs connecting Japan to Guam, and two fiber pairs connecting Guam to Sydney, which is being co-built by NEC and Alcatel Submarine Networks. The JGA-South segment is being developed by a consortium of AARnet, Google, and RTI-C, while the JGA-North segment is a private cable being developed by RTI-C. The entire system will cover 9500km.

While serving cloud customers will of course be an objective here, it is worth noting the rest of the Google business relies on fast and reliable infrastructure as well. When the lion’s share of your profits rely on effective search engine performance, reliable mapping technologies or being able to have a positive video experience on YouTube, investments in such infrastructure are critical.

Google Subsea Cable

Soon there will be another cable populating the subsea superhighway

China Telecom, China Unicom, Facebook, Tata Communications, and Telstra have all teamed up to sign a turnkey contract for the deployment of the Hong Kong-Americas (HKA) submarine cable network.

The Hong Kong-Americas (HKA) consortium, as they are officially known, has signed the agreement with Alcatel Submarine Networks to deliver a submarine cable network which will span more than 13,000km. The new asset will increase connectivity between Hong Kong and the US.

“We are committed to continually investing in our capabilities to meet our customers and partners’ increasing data demands,” said Tata Communications’ CTO, Genius Wong. “Joining the HKA consortium and connecting the new next-generation subsea cable system to our global network means that we are able to offer our customers and partners enhanced speed, diversity and reliability of connectivity between the business hubs of Asia and the US.

“With our growing network – and the cloud, mobility, security and collaboration services which it underpins – as the foundation, our customers and partners are better placed than ever to transform how they operate through new disruptive digital services and expand to new markets with agility.”

“The trust placed upon us by the HKA consortium validates our position as a key player for submarine network infrastructures in the Asia-Pacific region and the reinforcement of our local presence,” said Philippe Piron, President of Alcatel Submarine Networks.

“It also provides a strong platform to further demonstrate our commitment in project management and in the development of local relationships to support operators and content providers for their network and capacity expansion strategies.”

The new cable has promised to deliver greater diversity of connections, enhanced reliability and network efficiency, as well as improving connectivity between data centres in Asia and the US. In terms of the kit being used, Alcatel Submarine Networks has promised it will be top of the line, delivering 80 Tbps transmission capacity.

While it might not be the most glamorous part of the telco space, subsea cables are a crucial one. Google is another company which is boasting about its subsea party, as it announced investment into three new cables recently, one of which will be privately owned by the internet search giant.

Google ups investment in cloud infrastructure

Google has started 2018 by splashing the cash on its cloud infrastructure business, with five new data centres to add to the map and three subsea cables.

While the Google Cloud business unit will always be the little brother in the family tree, it is far from a burden. The last couple of years has seen the business grow from strength to strength, mopping up new revenues as the world transitions to the cloud. The team claims it has pumped $30 billion into cloud infrastructure over the last three years, and announcements like this imply the big spending will continue. If it is to adequately compete with market leader AWS, such spending is necessary.

“These new investments expand our existing cloud network,” said Ben Treynor Sloss VP, 24×7 at Google. “The Google network has over 100 points of presence and over 7,500 edge caching nodes. This investment means faster and more reliable connectivity for all our users.

“Simply put, it wouldn’t be possible to deliver products like Machine Learning Engine, Spanner, BigQuery and other Google Cloud Platform and G Suite services at the quality of service users expect without the Google network. Our cable systems provide the speed, capacity and reliability Google is known for worldwide, and at Google Cloud, our customers are able to to make use of the same network infrastructure that powers Google’s own services.”

Starting with the regions, the Netherlands and Montreal will be opened up in the first quarter, while Los Angeles, Finland, and Hong Kong will follow later on in the year. The door has also been left open for other new assets across 2018. The five additional data regions will take the total up to 18, will take Google on par with AWS, which does have four more planned for 2018 though.

While it is not unusual for the cloud infrastructure arms race to continue into 2018, you should not be surprised to see more data centres being opened in Europe over the coming months. Considering the sensitivity of European data protection laws, and the introduction of new regulations (EU GDPR) in a couple of months, localisation of data storage and applications will be crucial.

Here, Google is beefing its European presence, while AWS recently announced further availability zones in its EU:London region and it shouldn’t be too long before you see an announcement from Microsoft, IBM and the rest.

Now onto the subsea cables, which will be known as the Curie cable (named after scientist Marie Curie), the Havfrue cable (Danish for mermaid) and HK-G cable. All three will come online in 2019.

The Curie cable will be privately owned by Google and will connect Chile to Los Angeles. Havfrue, a consortium cable with Facebook, Aqua Comms and Bulk Infrastructure, will run the US to Denmark and Ireland, coming online in late 2019. The HK-G, an acronym for Hong Kong-Guam, is another consortium cable interconnecting major subsea communication hubs in Asia. For the final cable, Google will be working with RTI-C and NEC, while it will also increase capacity at the new Hong Kong region.

AWS is still the dominant market leader in the burgeoning cloud sector, but with such investments made into its own infrastructure, Google can mount a very capable challenge to the status quo.

A new consortium appears to lay another massive cable

A horde of big names has come together to build a high-capacity cable system that will connect Maruyama and Shima in Japan with Los Angeles in the USA and Daet in the Philippines.

So who is in the consortium; PCCW Global, Amazon, Facebook, NTT Communications, PLDT and SoftBank. Scheduled to be ready for service by early 2020, the Jupiter Cable will be approximately 14,000 km in length and has a design capacity of more than 60 Tbps.

“The demand for bandwidth in the Pacific region continues to grow at a remarkable rate, and is accompanied by the rise of capacity-dependent applications like live video, augmented and virtual reality, and 4k/8k video,” said Koji Ishii of SoftBank, co-chairperson of Jupiter consortium.

“Jupiter will provide the necessary diversity of connections and the highest capacity available to meet the needs of the evolving marketplace. TE SubCom has a proven record of success in the design and implementation of innovative, scalable and robust transoceanic cable systems, making the company the most reliable choice for the Jupiter supply partner.”

The cable itself has been configured as a trunk and branch system with submersible ROADM (reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexer) using WSS (wavelength selective switch) for a gridless and flexible bandwidth configuration. The team claim the ROADM nodes in the design are the most advanced form of this technology to date, providing bandwidth reconfiguration flexibility in an undersea network.

Bandwidth demand over the trans-Pacific route has more than tripled in just four years, though this is only going to increase as new, bandwidth-intensive technologies including Virtual Reality (VR), social media applications, video streaming, and gaming content start to gain traction in the mass market.

“Consumers and enterprises continue to require significantly increasing amounts of bandwidth whether for their own applications, or for their interface with content providers, hosting companies and cloud services,” said Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global. “The Jupiter network will play a crucial role in serving this increased demand across the key trans-Pacific artery.”

This is of course not the only cable which is being laid to deal with the rising demand of cat videos. Others include the Trident Subsea Cable, the Hawaiki cable and the FASTER cable. These are only three other examples, but the bottom of the ocean might start looking like the back of your PC before too long.