FASTER Under-sea Data Cable

Google, in partnership with several large Asia-based telephone companies, has announced a plan to run a new undersea cable, called FASTER, between Japan and the US west coast. This cable will have the fastest trans-pacific data capacity ever, at 60 terabytes per second. With construction beginning immediately the cable has been designed with 6-fiber-pair cable and optical transmission technologies.

This is hardly the first trans-ocean cable. There are already about 200 fiber optic cables run through the ocean, carrying an estimated 51 billion gigabytes per month; a data amount expected to increase to 132 billion gigabytes in the next few years. A substantial part of that data is on the UNITY and SJC cables, which handle 3.3 Tb/s and 28 Tb/s respectively; and which are also invested in by Google. Showing how fast the data needs are growing the 28 Tb/s SJC was only opened last year, on July 2013. Already the FASTER cable, which aims to be operational in 2016, has nearly triple the earlier cables capacity.

The system is designed to handle the increasingly intense data demands for broadband, mobile phone and business needs across the pacific. It is of particular benefit to Google which can connect its data centres in the U.S. and Asia. Years ago such cables were solely for the use of (land line) telephone connections. The fact that internet companies require them too means there are more companies investing in the facilities; but also that the facilities require much greater data capacity.

The future estimate of triple capacity in three years may be taking more into account than recent increases. The FASTER cable of today (actually 2016) is almost 20 times the capacity of UNITY cable’s 3.3Tb/s from a mere 4 years ago. Presumably data needs will continue to increase, but not indefinitely or always as rapidly as recent years.