AT&T and NTT join trans-Pacific cable project

Telecom giants AT&T and NTT are joining the underwater cable project designed to speed up the booming Internet traffic between Asia and North America, an AFP report said. The report reckons that the entry of NTT Communications ensures that a branch of the Trans-Pacific Express fibre optic cable network will connect with Japan, Asia's largest economy.

The project, which already involves companies from China, Taiwan and AT&T's rival Verizon Communications, was originally estimated to cost some €319 million (US$500 million).

In the first phase is the deployment of a cable stretching 17,000 km from China's east coast to the western US state of Oregon. It is expected to go into service by August, in time for the Beijing Olympics, the AFP report said.

The link is expected to have some 60 times the capacity of an existing undersea fibre. It is hoped that the new cable will help avoid breakdowns in Internet traffic such as the one that occurred in December 2006 after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the seabed near Taiwan, snapping undersea cables.

NTT Communications said in a statement that the branch connecting Japan with other parts of Asia would be operational by the first quarter of 2009, with a Japan-US section finished by early 2010.

Neither firm disclosed financial terms, but AT&T said its contribution would be part of €64 million (US$1 billion) the company has budgeted to spend this year on expanding services for multinational companies.

The companies already in the consortium are mainland Chinese companies China Telecom, China Netcom and China Unicom, as well as Korea Telecom, Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom and Verizon, according to the AFP report.