Facebook Plans Two Cables Linking US To Asia

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Facebook backs two new undersea cable projects creating direct link from North America to Singapore and key Indonesian market

Facebook is planning two new subsea cables to improve internet connectivity between North America, Singapore and Indonesia.

The two cables, buit in partnership with Google and regional telecoms companies, are intended to increase undersea capacity across the Pacific by about 70 percent, the company said.

Facebook vice president of network investments Kevin Salvadori told the Reuters news agency the company’s investment was “very material”, but he declined to specify its size.

Salvadori said the cables, named Echo and Bifrost, would be the first to directly connect North America to some of the main parts of Indonesia, and would increase connectivity for the country’s central and eastern provinces.

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Image credit: Facebook

‘Echo’ and ‘Bifrost’

“Echo” is being built with Google and Indonesian telecoms company XL Axiata and is intended for completion by 2023.

“Bifrost” is a partnership with Telin, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Telkom, and Singapore conglomerate Keppel and is to be finished the following year. Both require regulatory approval.

Facebook has made othe rinvestments to build up connectivity in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country and one of the company’s top five markets worldwide.

Some 73 percent of Indonesia’s population of 270 million is online, with the majority accessing the web through mobile data and less than 10 percent using fixed broadband, the Indonesian Internet Providers Association found in 2020.

Substantial areas of the country remain without internet access.

In 2020 Facebook said it would build 3,000 km of fibre in Indonesia across 20 cities, building on an earlier deal to develop public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Trans-Pacific cables

Facebook is also continuing to work with other cable plans in Asia and elsewhere, including working with the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), a 12,800 km cable funded by Facebook and Google parent Alphabet according to Facebook’s Salvadori.

The cable met resistance from the US government over plans to create a direct link from the US to Hong Kong, in addition to Taiwan and the Philippines, with regulators citing national security concerns.

Facebook said earlier in March that it would drop plans for the PLCN to link California and Hong Kong due to “ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communication links between the United States and Hong Kong”.

Salvadori said the company is still working on the cable and would aim to address regulatory issues.

“We are working with partners and regulators to meet all of the concerns that people have, and we look forward to that cable being a valuable, productive transpacific cable going forward in the near future,” he said.

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