Facebook and Google plan new undersea cable to Asia

Ethernet cable with lights shooting from the end

Facebook is partnering with Google in planning two new undersea cables to connect North America, Indonesia, and Singapore.

The move comes just weeks after Facebook scrapped plans for an underwater data cable between California and Hong Kong because the US government feared China could have used the cable to steal data. Facebook is confident it will win approval for the project this time around.

“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,” Facebook’s vice president of network investments, Kevin Salvadori, told Reuters.

Underwater cables carry most of the world’s data and are a vital part of global communications. Groups of communications firms typically build these cables and then charge other companies to use them.

Facebook is partnering with Google and regional telecommunication companies on these two proposed cables as part of an ongoing effort to boost internet connection capacity between the regions. The cables will still need regulatory approval before the project goes forward.

The new undersea cables, named Echo and Bifrost, are the first to follow a new route crossing the Java Sea, the company said. Facebook predicted the cables would increase overall subsea data capacity across the Pacific by about 70%.

This new development comes shortly after Facebook canceled plans to install an 8,000-mile-long fiber-optic cable running along the ocean floor to connect Hong Kong and Taiwan with two California sites.

Facebook killed the project because of pressure from US national security officials who raised concerns that an undersea cable to Hong Kong would be vulnerable to Chinese espionage.

That was only the latest cross-Pacific undersea data cable to stall because of US government resistance.

In September, developers canceled plans for a separate underwater cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong because the US government believed the Hong Kong operators had a relationship with Chinese intelligence and security services.

A third undersea cable between the U.S. and Hong Kong was also canceled last year when Facebook withdrew its proposal to lay a cable between Hong Kong and San Francisco.

All these plans were killed after the US Department of Justice warned the FCC against direct links between the US and Hong Kong because of Chinese crackdowns in the region.