Google to build Brazil-US fiber optic cable

The massive undersea link will be ready within two years
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

Google has taken a major step towards the improvement of Latin America's Internet infrastructure by backing the construction of a massive undersea fiber optic cable linking Brazil to the United States.

The new cable, spanning 10,556 km (6,560 miles) will link the Brazilian cities of Santos and Fortaleza with Boca Ratón in Florida. It will have six fiber pairs, with overall system design capacity of a whopping 64 Tbps — good news for Brazil, given that the country's Internet speed currently lags behind the rest of the world.

Work will start immediately on the project, which has a completion date set for late 2016. According to Brazilian newspaper Valor, the project investment is about $60 million.

"As more people get access to the Internet, more capacity to the infrastructure that keeps the Internet running is needed, so that everyone can have a fast, safe and useful online experience," says Google's Latin America head Cristian Ramos.

As well as Google, other partner companies that form the consortium running the project are Uruguay government-owned telco Antel, African operator Angola Cables — who had been trying to build another submarine link between Brazil and Angola that never went ahead — and Brazilian firm Algar Telecom. TE Connectivity SubCom was awarded the construction contract for the project.

NSA issues

In January this year, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff put pressure on the European Union to build an undersea link directly to Europe to bypass the US following the news that the National Security Agency had been spying on top officials — that included president Rousseff herself.

Around the same time last year, leaked documents became public around Muscular, a project carried out by the US National Security Agency with its British counterparts at GCHQ to secretly intercept the main communication links maintained by Tier 1 companies that carry Google user data around the world.

At the time reports around the project — which also affected Yahoo — came about, Google chief legal officer David Drummond said the search giant was "outraged" at the lengths to which the government seemed to have gone to intercept data from its private networks and that the episode underscored "the need for urgent reform."

It had been difficult to turn the Brazil-Europe link into reality given that for years, there was not enough companies prepared to back the project. A month after Dilma's address at the EU Commission conference, Brazilian state-owned telecom provider Telebras and Spain's IslaLink Submarine Cables announced that the construction of the Europe-Brazil fiber optic link would go ahead.

The $185 million project will link Portugal to the city of Fortaleza in the northeast of Brazil and is expected to complete within similar timescales to the Google-led US-Brazil link. While the new cable would funnel internet traffic between South America and Europe — thus bypassing the US entirely — Telebras says that the motivation for building the undersea link is economic, with the added bonus of security.

There is currently one cable connecting Brazil to Europe, Atlantis II, which is old and has limited capacity, being almost exclusively used as a telephony link.  The country has four other submarine cables, each connecting Brazil to the United States.

Updated Oct 14, 13.13 ET to add details on Muscular and current Brazil submarine fiber optic infrastructure

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