Google just announced on August 16 to build a subsea cable network connecting Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, Guam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The project, named Apricot, will be ready for service in 2024, stretching 12,000 km in total. Earlier this year, Google also announced the Echo subsea cable, which will connect the U.S., Singapore, Guam and Indonesia. Both cable networks will be complementary.
As of now, 98% of international internet traffic is ferried globally via subsea cables. As digital sovereignty becomes a geopolitical priority for leading economies around the world, data security has also grown in significance, especially given the integral role played by data in AI, Cloud Computing and the overall fourth industrial revolution.
Consequently, submarine cable networks have also gained geopolitical significance. In 2017, the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) co-owned by Google and Facebook already entered dangerous waters as it sought to establish the first direct connection between the US and Hong Kong. It got derailed after the US Justice Department raised concerns about its national security implications, triggered by the Chinese government’s increasingly assertive role in Hong Kong. Eventually, the fiber branch linking the US to Hong Kong was left in disuse, while the ones connected to Taiwan and the Philippines were activated.
In fact, as early as 2013 Google already scrapped a plan to build a data center in Hong Kong, while its data center plans in Taiwan and Singapore proceeded smoothly. From that point on, Google has planned two more data centers in Taiwan, gradually transforming it into a data hub in Asia-Pacific.
According to Google, both Echo and Apricot cables ensure a significantly higher degree of resilience for Google Cloud and digital services, while providing Asian businesses and startups with lower latency, more bandwidth, and increased resilience in their connectivity between Southeast Asia, North Asia and the United States.
By extension, it bears significance as the US-China tech war unfolds, leading to an increasingly bifurcated global technology ecosystem. Taiwan, as it seems, has just become further embedded into the US global security and technology strategy.
When completed, Apricot will join Google’s global network of subsea cables, including Curie, Dunant, Equiano, Firmina and Grace Hopper, and consortium cables like JGA, INDIGO and Havfrue. In total, Google has investments in 18 subsea cables, alongside our 27 cloud regions and 82 zones around the world.