Google Are Spending a Billion Dollars to Build Two New Undersea Internet Cables

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At a fundamental level, every internet connection relies on deep underwater cables that enable worldwide access. There are over 550 cables in the world with new ones still being added. Now Google is adding two more spanning the Pacific Ocean, bolstering connectivity between the United States and Japan.

The Undersea Internet Cables

When you’re a consumer, you’re probably more familiar with fibre optic cables that are great across short distances. Otherwise, wireless internet is the most common way of spreading digital content. That doesn’t work across vast oceans, however, which is why hundreds of undersea internet cables wrap around the planet.

Barring some exceptions, the internet is borderless. That means most websites can be accessed across multiple continents, requiring the use of those heavy-duty cables. Online businesses also rely on them, to spread their products/services all over the world. Some industries offer services that can only exist online like iGaming, which offers video slots or live streams of casino activities. The undersea cables enable players to find blackjack online games even when they’re hosted far away from their location. While wireless internet is expected to get better, it’s likely that we’ll always rely on these powerful undersea cables to maintain a fast and open internet that can hop continents effortlessly.

As you’d expect, the cables are some of the largest you can find. They use the same optical fibre technology that’s found in household internet cables, though they’re surrounded by layers of petroleum jelly, copper, aluminum, steel, mylar and then the standard polyethylene plastic coating. That makes them about an inch thick, weighing over a ton per kilometre. These wires are tracked and publicly visible through the official submarine cable map.

The Pacific Connect Initiative

In recent years, the world’s largest tech companies have started reinforcing these cables across the Pacific. There’s no shortage of underserved islands there that don’t have a cable internet connection yet, so now internet companies are starting to plug those gaps. It takes a lot of resources to build, lay and maintain these cables, which are funded by private companies who have a vested interest in the internet. Google leads the way here, having announced its Pacific Connect initiative in 2023.

It started in the South Pacific, where blog posts from Google Cloud announced that Google will invest into cables to and from Fiji and French Polynesia. The cables, named Honomoana and Tabua, will connect the islands to Australia and the USA at each side, bridging the Pacific. Three other cables were announced at the start of 2024, starting with Humboldt to connect Australia to Chile via French Polynesia. Then the central Pacific was reinforced by creating a cable loop between French Polynesia, Fiji and Guam. Now they are set to be joined by Taihei and Proa, two cables that focus on improving connectivity between Japanese and American infrastructure.

This new project starts in Hawaii, where the Tabua cable already connects to the contiguous USA. From there, Google has committed $1 billion (£800 million) toward adding the Taihei cable between Hawaii and Japan. Then, as part of the same project, the Proa cable will connect Japan to its distant southern neighbours in the Mariana Islands and Guam. The new cables are a collaborative effort between Google and Japanese telecommunication company KDDI. Due to the important and highly sensitive nature of the cables, the governments of every region are also involved in planning and laying these gigantic wires.

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