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Meet Echo and Bifrost, Facebook's new subsea cables

Facebook has unveiled plans to build two new subsea cables between Asia-Pacific and North America, and also revealed partnerships with Google as well as local telecoms operators for the project.

The social networking giant said the cables, dubbed Echo and Bifrost, are still subject to regulatory approvals, but when completed will deliver "much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability."

The transpacific cables will follow a "new diverse route crossing the Java Sea, connecting Singapore, Indonesia, and North America," and are expected to increase overall transpacific capacity by 70%.

Direct access: Bifrost and Echo are the latest moves by big tech to control the gateways to the Internet. (Source: Facebook)
Direct access: Bifrost and Echo are the latest moves by big tech to control the gateways to the Internet.
(Source: Facebook)

Facebook said partners include Indonesian companies Telin and XL Axiata and Singapore-based Keppel. The company has not revealed how much it or its partners are investing in the project

Kevin Salvadori, VP of network investments at Facebook, provided further details in an interview with Reuters. He said Echo is being built in partnership with Alphabet's Google and XL Axiata and should be completed by 2023. Bifrost partners include Telin, a subsidiary of Indonesia's Telkom, and Keppel and is due to be completed by 2024.

Capacity boost

Facebook noted that Echo and Bifrost will complement the subsea cables serving Indonesia today.

For example, the company has already partnered with Alita, an Indonesian telecom network provider, to deploy 3,000 kilometers of metro fiber in 20 cities in Bali, Java, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi. "In addition, we are improving connectivity by expanding Wi-Fi with Express Wi-Fi," Facebook added.

In Singapore, Echo and Bifrost are expected to provide extra subsea capacity to complement the APG and SJC-2 subsea cables.


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Salvadori also confirmed that Facebook is continuing its subsea plans in Asia and around the world, including the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN).

The 12,800km PLCN, which is being funded by Facebook and Alphabet, was originally intended to link the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

However, Facebook said earlier in March it would drop efforts to connect the cable between California and Hong Kong due to "ongoing concerns from the U.S. government about direct communication links between the United States and Hong Kong."

In June last year, a committee of top-level US government officials called Team Telecom recommended that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deny an application to connect the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) subsea cable system between the US and Hong Kong.

In early 2020, Facebook partnered with China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC to build 2Africa, which aims to interconnect 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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