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Facebook and Google plan new undersea cables to connect southeast Asia and America


Facebook is planning two undersea cables to connect Singapore, Indonesia and North America in a bid to boost internet connection capacity between the regions.

The cables, named Echo and Bifrost, will be the first to directly connect North America to some of the main parts of Indonesia.

In collaboration with Google and other telecommunication companies, the project aims to increase connectivity for the central and eastern provinces of the world’s fourth most populous country.

“Named Echo and Bifrost, those will be the first two cables to go through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea and they will increase overall subsea capacity in the trans-pacific by about 70%,” Facebook vice president of network investments Kevin Salvadori told Reuters.

Mr Salvadori declined to specify the size of the investment, but said it was “a very material investment for us in southeast Asia”.

The two cables, which will need regulatory approval, follow previous investments by Facebook to build up connectivity in Indonesia, one of its top five markets globally.

Mr Salvadori said Echo is being built in partnership with Alphabet’s Google and Indonesian telecommunications’ company XL Axiata and should be completed by 2023.

The other cable, Bifrost, is being done in partnership with Telin – a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Telkom and Singaporean conglomerate Keppel – and is set to be finished by 2024.

A recent survey showed that while 73% of Indonesia’s population of 270 million are online, the majority get onto the web through mobile data – with less than 10% using a broadband connection.

Meanwhile, large parts of the country remain without any internet access at all.

Facebook said last year it would deploy 3,000km (1,8641 miles) of fibre in Indonesia across 20 cities in addition to a previous deal to develop public wifi hot spots.

It has also pledged to continue with its broader subsea plans in Asia and globally, including with the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), Mr Salvadori said.

“We are working with partners and regulators to meet all of the concerns that people have, and we look forward to that cable being a valuable, productive transpacific cable going forward in the near future,” he added.

However, the ongoing tensions between the US and China appear to have affected the plans.

The 12,800km PLCN, which is being funded by Facebook and Alphabet, was met with US government resistance over plans for a Hong Kong conduit. It was originally intended to link the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Earlier this month, Facebook said it would drop efforts to connect the cable between California and Hong Kong due to “ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communication links between the United States and Hong Kong”.

This article was originally published by Lucia Binding,

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