The cable will be completed in 2019 and run around half the coast of Australia
The world’s network of undersea internet cables is vast and its capacity is set to expand further with Google’s plans for a new ‘Indigo cable’.
The search giant along with internet infrastructure firms Indosat Ooredoo, Singtel, SubPartners, and Telstra, is going to connect Singapore to Perth and Sydney, Australia, with the new cable.
Indigo will have two fiber pairs, as well as a capacity of 18 terabits per second and will run a length of around 5,600 miles from Singapore to the Eastern side of Australia.
“Using coherent optical technology, which uses light to transmit data along fibre optic cables, each of the two-fibre pairs will have a minimum capacity of 18 terabits per second, with the option to increase this capacity in the future,” those behind the cable said in a statement.
Google says when the cable is completed in mid-2019 it will, theoretically, be able to handle eight million Google Hangout video calls at once.
However, the cable’s capacity won’t be completely used by Google – it will be split between the other firms in the Indigo partnership. The cable marks Google’s seventh investment in subsea cables.
The latest cable, follows the announcement in October 2016 of another cable that is due to be laid by Google and Facebook. Along with Pacific Light Data Communication and TE SubCom, the tech giants are joining forces to lay the first cable that directly connects Los Angeles to Hong Kong. It’s been called the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN).
The cable, which will be laid and operational by May 2018, will have 12,800km (7,953 miles) of fibre optics and have a huge capacity of 120 terabits per second. This will make it the “highest-capacity trans-Pacific” cable in existence – the record is currently held by Google’s ‘Faster’ cable.
The cable will increase the amount and speed of internet traffic that can travel between the US and the autonomous Chinese territory. “PLCN will provide enough capacity for Hong Kong to have 80 million concurrent HD video conference calls with Los Angeles,” Google’s director of networking infrastructure Brian Quigley said in a blog post.
To allow for the high capacity, the cable will use new technology from TE SubCom. The C+L band tech is said to be able to “double” the capacity of the bandwidth per fibre. Wei Junkang, the director of PLDC, said it will be an “ultra-high-capacity” cable.
How many internet cables are there?
The new cables will become the latest in the deep sea network of cables that help to provide internet connectivity around the world. According to TeleGeography, there are currently 359 active and planned undersea cable systems around the world.
A global map – in a similar style to London’s Tube map – from TeleGeography shows all the undersea cables currently in operation and planned. Most cables ultimately help to connect major internet exchanges – for example the London Internet Exchange or the Los Angeles Internet Exchange – to the outside world.
The SEA-ME-WE 3 cable that connects Europe to Australia and Asia is the longest cable in the world. It has 39 landing points and is 39,000km in length.
Increasingly, internet cables are being built by the web’s giants. This is to help them carry private user data across networks. On October 12 Nokia said it had demonstrated a 65 terabit-per-second transmission using dual-band fibre amplifiers in its test lab. Google said it now has ownership in six subsea cables.
Tim Stronge, the vice president of TeleGeography, told WIRED the new cable is the continuation of a new trend.
“Large content providers have huge and often unpredictable traffic requirements, especially among their own data centers,” he said. “Their capacity needs are at such a scale that it makes sense for them, on their biggest routes, to build rather than to buy. Owning subsea fibre pairs also gives them the flexibility to upgrade when they see fit, rather than being beholden to a third-party submarine cable operator.”
Despite companies wanting to own their own cables, Stronge says, there is a lot of spare capacity in existing subsea systems to last for a long time.
“The issue is that the content providers want to own fibre pairs rather than buying capacity from third parties. Thus, the areas that are receiving the most attention for new cable builds are the routes that connect major data centres of the content providers.”
The Faster cable, part owned by Google, became operational in June. Costing $300 million (£222m) the pip travels 9,000km (5,592 miles) between Japan and the West Coast of the US. It’s capable of 60 terabits per second capacity.
In May 2016, Facebook and Microsoft announced they would be building a new underwater cable across the Atlantic. The Marea cable will offer speeds of 160 terabytes per second.