Google makes its infrastructure move; Buys chunk of Trans-Pacific undersea cable

Google on Tuesday announced that it is part of a consortium of six companies building a high-bandwidth undersea cable connecting the U.S.

Google on Tuesday announced that it is part of a consortium of six companies building a high-bandwidth undersea cable connecting the U.S. and Japan.

In a statement, Google said cable will cost about $300 million and give Google access to capacity of 7.68 terabits per second (Tbps). Google needs more bandwidth to handle traffic between Asia and the U.S.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Google is getting into the infrastructure game in an arrangement that gives it direct access to the cable (most companies get bandwidth via telecom providers);
  • Google is building its own network despite repeated denials. Om Malik has a lot of background on this issue.
  • If this venture works out it's not a huge leap to see Google acquiring more infrastructure that it could sell or lease. Google hints at selling access in its statement: "The new five fiber pair cable system can be expanded up to eight fiber pairs, with each fiber pair capable of carrying up to 960 Gigabits per second (Gbps). By having a high fiber count, Unity is able to offer more capacity at lower unit costs," says Google.

That final point is debatable given what Francois Sterin, Manager, Network Acquisitions, said in a blog post:

If you're wondering whether we're going into the undersea cable business, the answer is no. We're not competing with telecom providers, but the volume of data we need to move around the world has grown to the point where in some cases we've exceeded the ability traditional players can offer. Our partnership with these companies is just another step in ensuring that we're delivering the best possible experience to people around the world.

Of course, Google is going to say that, but I wonder how things will look five years from now. The consortium, dubbed Unity, includes Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, Google, KDDI Corporation, Pacnet and SingTel. Google says in a statement that "the name Unity was chosen to signify a new type of consortium, born out of potentially competing systems, to emerge as a system within a system, offering ownership and management of individual fiber pairs."

NEC and Tyco Telecommunications will build the 10,000 kilometer cable, which will connect Chikura off the coast near Tokyo to Los Angeles and other points on the West Coast. The capacity will be available in the first quarter of 2010.

Om notes that it's unlikely that Google's move is the beginning of a trend. That's true given that most companies don't have the financial resources--or moxie--to buy an undersea cable. But given Microsoft's Google envy--and willingness to spend money--it wouldn't be too shocking if the software giant bought its own fiber at some point.