Google and Facebook sign on for 120-Tbps PLCN subsea cable project

Google and Facebook sign on for 120-Tbps PLCN
Proposed cable routing for PLCN. (PRNewsFoto/TE Connectivity Ltd.)

ITEM: Google and Facebook are pitching in for Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), another new transpacific submarine cable system, that will not only be the first to provide a direct connection between Hong Kong and Los Angeles, but also the fastest transpacific cable ever.

The PLCN is a planned 12,800 km subsea cable system spearheaded by Hong Kong-based start-up PLDC (Pacific Light Data Communication Co. Ltd), a subsidiary of China Soft Power Technology Holding Limited (CSPT). PLDC announced plans for the HK-LA cable in November last year.

Now, Google and Facebook have signed on to co-build the PLCN, which is expected to be commercially up and running in the middle of 2018.

That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise in these days of digital disruption, if only because neither company is new to the subsea cable business. This is Google’s sixth subsea cable investment, after Unity, SJC, FASTER, MONET and Tannat. And it’s the second for Facebook, which teamed up with Microsoft in late May to build the 160-Tbps Marea cable, which will connect the US and southern Europe when it’s finished in October 2017.

Both Facebook and Google see value in investing in the very infrastructure they need to support their own businesses. From Google submarine networking infrastructure director Brian Quigley’s blog post on the PLCN announcement:

From the get-go, PLCN is designed to accommodate evolving infrastructure technology, allowing us to independently choose network equipment and refresh optical technology as it advances. Most importantly, PLCN will bring lower latency, more security and greater bandwidth to Google users in the APAC region. In addition to our existing investments in APAC cloud regions and the FASTER cable system, PLCN expands our ability to serve people in Asia, including Google Cloud and G Suite customers.

Google and Facebook sign on for 120-Tbps Pacific Light Cable Network
Source: Google

PLDC has already contracted TE SubCom (a subsidiary of TE Connectivity)  to provide the cable transmission technology. TE SubCom says its “C+L” technology “effectively doubles the available bandwidth and capacity per fiber pair over a traditional C-band-only designed system.”

According to Google, that will deliver a transpacific capacity of 120 Gbps, making it “the highest-capacity trans-Pacific route”. In fact, it would be double the capacity of the current transpacific record-holder: Google’s FASTER cable, which connects Japan and Oregon and went live in June 2016.

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