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Google to build new undersea cable to connect Latin America and the U.S.

145 points5 daysreuters.com
xpe5 days ago

The Reuters article made a mistake:

> The cable, called Firmina, will be the longest cable in the world, Google said in a blog post, adding that it will run from the East Coast of the United States to Las Toninas, Argentina, with additional landings in Praia Grande, Brazil, and Punta del Este, Uruguay.

This is a misquote from the original https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/infrastructure/announ... :

> Firmina will be the longest cable in the world capable of running entirely from a single power source at one end of the cable if its other power source(s) become temporarily unavailable—a resilience boost at a time when reliable connectivity is more important than ever.

As you would expect, TRANSPAC is much longer:

> 1995 No.5 Trans-Pacific Cable Network(TPC-5) (Laid cable length: approx.2,958 km)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpac_(cable_system)

kevincox5 days ago

What exactly does "additional landings" mean here. I usually think of a cable as connecting two places.

Is it basically multiple cables that connect to the same exchange onshore?

Or is there a router "at sea" where the cables fork?

Or does some of the cable from the US terminates in Brazil, some terminate in Punta del Este, ...

sithadmin5 days ago

Depends on the cable. In some cases, the fiber bundle will be fully terminated at the landing, which serves as a junction point where the logical path for the cable system then resumes via a different cable to the next landing in the path. In other cases, a fraction of the fiber bundle will be split (either physically or with a subsea multiplexer device) and directed to a nearby landing, with the remainder of the fiber continuing onwards.

virtuallynathan5 days ago

On these newer cables they tend to use wavelength-selective switches at BUs.

analyte1235 days ago

>Firmina will improve access to Google services for users in South America...giving users fast, low-latency access to Google products such as Search, Gmail and YouTube, as well as Google Cloud services

When companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft build cables do they ever let people besides themselves use it for a price? It would be unfortunate if millions of people had no choice but to use Google etc services because they were the only ones that performed well enough.

jchw5 days ago

They fund some cables, but most of them are not private to my knowledge. A cursory search suggests that of 16 undersea cable investments by Google, this one is one of six that are private to Google. So maybe there can be some partial relief in that the cables actually have a diverse set of owners and funders still. I’m not sure where this puts us practically.

skybrian5 days ago

There is competition. Businesses that aren't large enough to fund their own cables buy bandwidth from large ISP's, which are likely to invest in more undersea cables when they anticipate selling more bandwidth.

Meanwhile, the big content providers are using two thirds of the bandwidth. It seems like if everyone suddenly switched to something else then that would cause a lot of disruption, but not if the change is gradual.

plerpin5 days ago

It's vertical integration. As long as we're wishing for fairness I wish Apple would share those tasty M1 processors with the rest of the non-Mac world.

walterbell5 days ago
darksaints5 days ago

Well the upside is that all of the traffic that would normally go to Google is gonna be shifted towards their own private line. That may not be a latency improvement like Google services would get, but it is still a throughput improvement.

pkaye5 days ago

Isn't peering a key part of how the Internet works? I can also see any company using Google Cloud Services would benefit with connecting to users in South America.

toast05 days ago

Peering won't get non-Google traffic on a Google cable. But as a sibling points out, Google moving traffic to its own cable may free up room on existing cables.

Most of these cables are built in partnership with other companies, often including major transit providers.

virtuallynathan5 days ago

Generally yes in the case that other parties help out — for example Marea was Microsoft, Facebook, and Telexius. Telexius sells capacity on that cable.

Others are Google exclusive, and they do not currently sell capacity to my knowledge.

thurn5 days ago

cables are almost never exclusive, the economics just make more sense if you have partners because adding extra capacity before you start laying cable has a very low marginal cost

dep_b5 days ago

So this is a private cable only used for Google services? I noticed connections to the US are so much better from Europe than in Argentina, would be a shame only the Googlenet gets a decent speedboost.

xpe5 days ago

Since Google Cloud service are included, others may pay to use Firmina 'indirectly' ...

> the cable will carry traffic quickly and securely between North and South America, giving users fast, low-latency access to Google products such as Search, Gmail and YouTube, as well as Google Cloud services.

See also: Internet transit agreements

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_transit

loloquwowndueo5 days ago

Just note that those three countries are hardly all of Latin America and are usually best described as part of South America (and southern South America at that).

SantiAchi5 days ago

That's about 245~ million people and almost all of SA's Atlantic coastline. It might be more appropriate to say it's Eastern South America rather than 'all of Latin America' OR 'southern South America' for that matter..

jollybean5 days ago

Imagine if Ford and GM started building roads and tolling who gets access ...

Given the strategic importance of such things, I hope there are good regulations in place.

inshadows5 days ago

Off-topic: How do / Where can I learn about world network infrastructure? I'll use Google, Obi-wan. I just seek wisdom of local wizards. Thanks!

abrowne5 days ago

"Mother Earth Mother Board" (1996) by Neal Stephenson is great narrative nonfiction on the subject: https://www.wired.com/1996/12/ffglass/

imw5 days ago

This is a pretty fun starting point: https://www.submarinecablemap.com/

throw0101a5 days ago

NANOG has presentations on low-level stuff. A comment of mine from a few days ago links to some videos:

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27412527

I'm sure you'll get a bunch of "related" videos on YouTube after watch them.

jonbaer5 days ago
surround5 days ago
ishtanbul5 days ago

How much do these cables cost?

bingidingi5 days ago

The Unity cable from Japan to the US cost $300 million (~10,000km) in 2010

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unity_(cable_system)

bombcar5 days ago

$30k a kilometer is not bad all things considered.

mschuster915 days ago

Or 30$ a meter. Cheaper than Thunderbolt cables, I'm really amazed especially how much actual human effort is required in cable-laying.

+1
ClumsyPilot5 days ago
missedthecue5 days ago

Wow I would have guessed 10x that

elevenoh5 days ago

If this were government doing it, it would've been 10x that ;)

TaylorAlexander5 days ago

That would make that single cable 1/3 the price of the LHC. I’m glad it doesn’t cost that much!

swiley5 days ago

We generally assume the internet is empowering but part of that assumption expects personal computing and an understanding of the web (IMO.)

Getting your android phone a better connection to Google/Facebook is probably more empowering to Google than you.

sergiomattei5 days ago

Google does wonders for access to information in developing countries. It empowers a whole generation to tap into the world's knowledge efficiently and learn new skills and ideas. Facebook does wonders as well for connecting people together and empowering small business owners.

The glass half-full. Of course there are problems with what they're doing and they're definitely not being altruistic. But IMO the benefits outweigh the costs.

Faster internet access for developing countries? Sign me up.

I'm flabbergasted - I come to expect more nuance from HN, and all I'm seeing in this thread is "to hell with this potentially great thing, because fuck the great evils Google and Facebook".

gkanai5 days ago

obligatory link to the canonical Neal Stephenson article on undersea cables:

https://www.wired.com/1996/12/ffglass/

boltzmann_brain5 days ago

It's amazing to me that internet ad company is laying undersea cables.

hulitu5 days ago

So NSA needs more involvement in South America. Fear the greeks when they bring you presents.

macspoofing5 days ago

Something something ... Net Neutrality ... something something.

batmansmk5 days ago

I find surprising that Brazil, Urugay accepts US-based infrastructure between their countries. It is surrendering their data sovereignty.

hulitu5 days ago

Everybody loves US. Especially when they have military bases on their soil or an aircraft carrier in the harbour. They are very nice. They borrow you money, they help with the economy. The only thing they ask is that you not restrict american companies in doing "business".

randomopining5 days ago

Your sarcasm would be funny except for the fact that almost all serious US partners are doing fine and have vibrant democracies. Regardless of continent or history, race, etc. Japan Europe SK Colombia etc.

Qem5 days ago

At least in case of Brazil, it helps that the FBI assisted the Car Wash operation arrest a relatively autonomous front-runner presidential candidate on trumped up charges, to empower the puppet rainforest burner, negationist chloroquine peddler that rules there now, stacking a pandemic body count close to five hundred thousand in the process, and counting up. See https://theintercept.com/2020/03/12/united-states-justice-de...