Google joins others in $300m Unity cable project

Google has confirmed its long-expected participation in the Asian bandwidth business with a stake in a new multi-terabit cable between Japan and the US.

The new cable, called Unity, is a hybrid club-private project backed by Google and five others - Pacnet, SingTel, Bharti, KDDI and Malaysian data center group Global Transit.

Contracts for building the $300 million system have been awarded to NEC and Tyco, the partners said in a statement Tuesday.

Google's investment in the project has been long-rumored. CEO Eric Schmidt several months ago confirmed the likely investment as a means of meeting huge capacity requirements.

Pacnet, the newly-formed carrier following the merger between Asia Netcom and Pacnet, is the biggest single investor in Unity. It will control two of Unity's five cable pairs, the company said.

Each of the fiber pairs of the Unity cable system is capable of carrying up to

960 Gbps, and the cable system can scale up to eight fiber pairs.

Unity is likely to start service in the first quarter of 2010, Unity said. The 10,000 kilometer system will land at Chikura, near Tokyo, and at Los Angeles.

Fully-lit, its total potential capacity of 7.68 Tbps would increase trans-Pacific bandwidth by about %, Unity said.

TeleGeography said in a research note that Google was pursuing the same approach it had taken in the US, where it has bought dark fiber directly from operators.

The Unity investment gives it the opportunity to buy large amount of capacity at cost, research director Alan Mauldin said, adding that it was unlikely that other non-telcos would venture into the cable business.