Google is investing in its second private intercontinental cable to connect Virginia Beach, USA, to the west coast of France.
The subsea cable will be known as the Dunant, after Red Cross founder and the first Nobel Peace Prize winner Henri Dunant. It will run from a cable landing station in Virginia Beach to an undisclosed location on France's west coast. Google is building a huge amount of cloud data centre capacity at Virginia Beach and the new cable will boost bandwidth to its data centres in Belgium, relatively close to Western France.
Working with cable contractor TE SubCom, which will manufacture and lay the undersea pipe, Google says the Dunant cable will be operational by 2020.
Laying an intercontinental submarine cable across the North Atlantic is a huge endeavour costing hundreds of millions of dollars and requiring close multi-party coordination. For this reason, undersea cables tend to be laid by multiple telecommunications companies working together in consortia.
Recently, the demand for global bandwidth by internet giants such as Amazon and Google has grown exponentially, meaning that the investment in cable infrastructure can make more financial sense.
In a blog post, Google's strategic negotiator, Jayne Stowell, highlighted three factors the company takes into consideration when considering cable projects: performance and latency; capacity; and guaranteed bandwidth for the lifetime of the cable.
"We started off with two private cable projects that run over relatively short distances. These were our Alpha and Beta cables (a nod to how we name software releases), and their success led us to build both Curie and Dunant privately. We've worked with consortia on other new cables - including Havfrue, HK-G and JGA-S - and will continue to invest in consortium cables in the future," she wrote.
Curie, the first privately owned Google subsea cable, will come into service next year and will connect Los Angeles to Valparaíso in Chile. Three new Google data centres came online in LA this week and through Curie they will be able to connect to Chile, home to Google's largest Latin American data centre.
Next year, an additional five intercontinental cables will go live but these will be the work of consortia rather than single-company concerns like Dunant and Curie.
Northern Virginia, home to the highest concentrated area of data centres in the US, has been the focus of attention for intercontinental cable projects, including the joint venture between Microsoft and Facebook Marea which connects Virginia to Spain.
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