Seahorse holding onto undersea cable

Google to build private cable under Atlantic Ocean

Image credit: Dreamstime

The search giant has announced plans to lay its own undersea cable beneath the Atlantic Ocean. This cable – its first private transatlantic cable – will connect the US and France.

The cable will reach from Virginia Beach to the French coast, supporting what Google describes in a blog post as “one of the busiest roads on the internet” and promising high-bandwidth and low-latency cloud connections between the US and EU.

The infrastructure project has been named ‘Dunant’ in honour of Red Cross founder Henri Dunant. Dunant will be Google’s fourth private cable, following Alpha, Beta and Curie – which connects the US to Chile – and the first private cable to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Typically, companies pay for capacity on cables built, installed and maintained by a consortium of companies, and often share bandwidth with their rivals. Google has invested in numerous previous cables, including several spanning the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

According to Google, a number of factors led to its decision to build the cable privately: the ability to choose its own specific route which passes busy data centres, as well as allowing for projected growth in demand for capacity, meaning that Google can guarantee bandwidth to its customers throughout the entire lifetime of the cable.

Google will be working with TE SubCom on the design, manufacture and implementation of the cable. The cable is believed to use four fibre pairs. It is set to become available in late 2020 and will have a working life of 15 to 20 years.

The company’s plans for its private transatlantic cable follow considerable investment in consortia-owned cables and expansions to its cloud infrastructure, with new regions supported in the US, Canada, Finland and the Netherlands.

The security and reliability of undersea cables have come into question in the last year, with up to 40 cuts a year between the US and UK. Although these incidents are mostly accidental, a report published by the Policy Exchange think tank in December 2017 suggested that internet traffic carried by undersea cables was “uniquely vulnerable” to cyber attacks.

In January, Australia’s security agency banned Huawei’s plans for an approximately $100m (£77m) undersea cable over espionage concerns. The project will instead be mostly funded by the Australian government.

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