Yarrr! Google enters the trans-Pacific submarine cable market

24 Sep 2007

On 21 September 2007 Communications Day reported that Google is heading up a consortium of telecoms companies that is working on a trans-Pacific undersea cable, called ‘Unity.’ Google is joining a crowded field of telecoms companies seeking to build new cables across the Pacific.

Trans-Pacific bandwidth demand has soared in recent years, due to the rapid growth of the Internet. New data from TeleGeography’s Global Internet Geography research service show that trans-Pacific Internet traffic increased 41% between mid-2006 and mid-2007.

Existing trans-Pacific cables provide 3.3Tbps of lit capacity. To meet growing demand, carriers are upgrading existing cables such as Pacific Crossing-1 and the Japan-US Cable system. In addition, two new cables, Trans-Pacific Express and the Asia America Gateway, are under construction and should be complete in 2008. The cumulative effect of these upgrades and new cables will be to boost lit trans-Pacific submarine cable capacity by 120% to 7.2Tbps by the end of 2008.

Even greater capacity increases may be on the horizon. In addition to the Google-led Unity consortium, Asia Netcom and FLAG Telecom are also planning trans-Pacific submarine cables, though no contracts have been awarded yet for the construction of these cables.

Although trans-Pacific bandwidth prices fell sharply during the wholesale market downturn in the early 2000s, the lease price of a 10Gbps wavelength circuit across the Pacific is more than ten times greater than comparable capacity across the Atlantic. According to TeleGeography analyst Alan Mauldin, ‘In the face of so many new cables, the trans-Pacific market is in danger of a price collapse similar to that which has plagued trans-Atlantic cable operators.’

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