Facebook Has Lofty Goal in Undersea Cable Boom

It wants to encircle Africa in fiber optics, reports Wall Street Journal
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2019 8:51 AM CDT
Facebook Has Lofty Goal in Undersea Cable Boom
A worker doles out cable from a large spool on a ship as a subsea cable is laid in the waters off the coast off Alaska.   (Quintillion via AP)

Facebook plans to lasso the whole of Africa in underwater cable. The cable project dubbed Simba would encircle the continent, linking several spots on the eastern, western, and Mediterranean coasts in an effort to provide a more stable connection and lower bandwidth costs, people with knowledge of discussions tell the Wall Street Journal. The project might yet fall through, though Bloomberg notes that underwater data cable projects are booming, "with more cable laid in 2018 than in any year in almost two decades." Facebook, Google, and other internet companies generating huge amounts of data traffic are leading the charge. They're behind 80% of transatlantic cable investments planned from 2018 to 2020, up from 20% from 2015 to 2017, Bloomberg reports.

Google plans to build a cable from Virginia to France by 2020, reports the New York Times, which offers a map showing how undersea cables snake around the globe. Parent company Alphabet is also in talks to run another cable system down Africa's west coast, per the Journal. But industry executives see Facebook's Simba, connecting to the company's European and Asian data centers, as "uniquely ambitious," with one estimating costs of up to $1 billion. Facebook may seek funding from telecom companies MTN Group and Vodafone PLC, which would then be given access to the fiber-optic lines. Facebook also is teaming up with China Mobile and Amazon Web Services to link San Francisco to Hong Kong and Singapore. (All these cables present a security problem.)

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