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Google's Building Unity Underseas

It seems Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s plans for world domination include laying a submarine cable in the Pacific Ocean.

Australia's Communications Day reported last week that the search engine giant is in talks with a group of at least half a dozen carriers that includes Asia Netcom and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS). The "Unity" cable would use two separate routes to provide network diversity, although exact landing points are yet to be determined.

Unity was apparently referred to in a presentation by Mike Saunders, Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT)'s director of business development, at the Submarine Networks World 2007 conference in Singapore earlier this month -- although he did not indicate Google was involved.

A job listing on Google's Website for "Strategic Negotiator, Submarine Cable" makes it clear the company is mulling a larger role in the subsea space: "These negotiators will work closely with vendors to identify highly cost-effective solutions under the most favorable commercial and technical terms possible. They will also be involved in new projects or investments in cable systems that Google may contemplate to extend or grow its backbone."

Google has become increasingly active in its infrastructure investments -- buying up dark fiber, peering with telcos and ISPs, making a play for wireless networks, and investing in powerline technology. (See Google: Dark Fiber Story Not So Dark , Google's Own Private Internet, Google Pledges $4.6B for Spectrum, Google Takes WiFi Plan to the 'Hood, Mountain View Gets Free Access, and Google's Powerline Play.)

Joining a consortium to build a new cable would give Google access to its own capacity at build-cost and enable it to peer directly with ISPs in Asia, where Internet traffic is climbing steadily. It would also be a blow to other capacity providers, for which Google is a major source of traffic.

According to TeleGeography Inc. 's Global Internet Geography research service, Internet traffic across the Pacific increased 41 percent between mid-2006 and mid-2007.

Several proposals have already been floated for new subsea projects in the region -- including the Trans-Pacific Express and the Asia America Gateway -- in addition to upgrading cables such as Pacific Crossing-1 and the Japan-US Cable system. (See Carriers Plan $500M Transpacific Link, Telstra Picks ALU for Subsea, Fujitsu Scores Massive FLAG Deal, Southern Cross Picks AlcaLu, Fujitsu Wins Japan-US Cable Deal, FLAG Announces NGN, and Carriers to Connect China With $500M Cable.)

According to TeleGeography, the cumulative effect of all this activity will be to boost lit transpacific submarine cable capacity by 120 percent to 7.2 Tbit/s by the end of 2008.



Analysts are concerned that such a ramp-up could create a bubble and lead to oversupply, much the same as what happened on the transatlantic route.

Saunders' presentation at the Submarine Networks conference was titled "Asia Pacific cable builds: another Atlantic waiting to happen?" The program lists such questions as: "Multiple cables have been announced for the transpacific routes... are they all viable and sustainable?" and "Can oversupply be avoided without running into a shortage?"

TeleGeography analyst Alan Mauldin notes that, although the price of leasing a 10-Gbit/s wavelength circuit across the Pacific is more than 10 times higher than comparable capacity across the Atlantic, "in the face of so many new cables, the transpacific market is in danger of a price collapse similar to that which has plagued transatlantic cable operators."

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:02:01 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas Given the earthquake danger, more routes in and out of Asia/Pac is probably a good thing. Not sure I'd worry about oversupply.

How is Australia's situation, as far as fiber connection to the outside world? I'd guess that places like Taiwan are fiber-rich, but Australia might be less so.
clueless 12/5/2012 | 3:02:00 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas Not so much fibre, not so much competition. This is affecting the cost and take up of broadband in Australia.

Google is rumored to want 40-80Gbps (redundant) from the US, but the incumbents obviously see Google as a threat and so won't come to a landing on price - so hence Google is considering building it's own.

A small Australian carrier is also looking at building a new cable to Guam for services late 2008 maybe early 2009, depending on funding.
Ryan Lawler 12/5/2012 | 3:01:59 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas What good is an oceanic fiber if you don't have or own local access to high bandwidth customers?

Google has plans for wireless spectrum, and it looks like they have a handset in the works. Will that not be enough access to customers?
Ryan Lawler 12/5/2012 | 3:01:59 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas What good is an oceanic fiber if you don't have or own local access to high bandwidth customers?

Google has plans for wireless spectrum, and it looks like they have a handset in the works. Will that not be enough access to customers?
American Indian 12/5/2012 | 3:01:59 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas

Why is this news?

Who cares that Google wants a few strands of fiber.

Google is a lost puppy in Telecom. Stop giving them credibility.

What good is an oceanic fiber if you don't have or own local access to high bandwidth customers?
Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 3:01:58 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas Well that's the thing. Can Google sustain this kind of PR/lobbying strategy?

It's interesting how Google is harnessing Internet communication (people taking to each other, blogging, linking, forwarding articles, etc) to get its message over. The actual communication companies havenGÇÖt figured this out at all and are cast as bad guys, despite providing the infrastructure we use.

You can see why Google needs to do something. The model where content providers have to pay to ride the telco pipes is coming to wireless. Vendors are building products that allow the wireless operator to provide end-users a better service if, say, the online video company pays for extra capacity, QOS, or whatever. The net neutrality concept hardly gets a look-in.
Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 3:01:58 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas I also canGÇÖt see Google running a wireless network or winning spectrum in the 700 MHz auction. I think they got what they wanted (and more than they expected) with the "open access" conditions imposed by the FCC.

Credit to Google's PR strategists for harnessing all the online media and bloggers to their cause.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:01:58 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas I think they got what they wanted (and more than they expected) with the "open access" conditions imposed by the FCC.

If that's all they wanted they are going to be sorely disappointed. The FCC has a terrible record of enforcing any rules. They follow Greenspan's model w/respect to enforcing regulations to limit bank fraud.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:01:58 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas Google has plans for wireless spectrum, and it looks like they have a handset in the works. Will that not be enough access to customers?

Nope. Wishful thinking rarely works.

Google's first order of business is to start paying content providers and fending off copyright violation lawsuits. GOOG sinking large amounts of cash into access networks is probably never going to happen.
corwin0 12/5/2012 | 3:01:56 PM
re: Google's Building Unity Underseas Other than Southern Cross, and some older PDH cables, there really isn't anything from AU/NZ to NA. As Optus/TNZ owns the landing rights for SC in AU/NZ, the "other carriers" in the region either have to buy at market price, or go north then east. Due to $$ and politics it becomes obvious that there was already some demand for a new cable. Google probably pushes that over the edge....

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