Why is Google investing in a second undersea telecommunications cable project? For Google, this move is all about the future of the Internet and laying the foundations for an infrastructure that will track the network’s growth.
Last Thursday Google said it would team with KDDI, Bharti Airtel, Reliance to build a $400 million submarine cable that will connect the Asia Pacific region, dubbed Southeast Asia Japan Cable (SJC). In 2008 Google announced a deal to partner with Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, KDDI Corp., Pancet and SingTel on the $300 million Unity Trans-Pacific Cable.
To understand the motivations behind Google’s investment, check out this July video of a presentation by Google’Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf, during which he discusses growth trends in Internet usage. At about the 9 minute mark, Cerf notes that Asia already has the largest Internet population, with 657 million users, compared to 393 million in Europe and 251 million in North America. Here’s the key data point: when expressed in percentage of the population, 75 percent of North Americans are online, compared to 49 percent of Europeans. In Asia, that 657 million represents just 17 percent of the population.
“The Asian population will the dominant user population of the Internet,” says Cerf, who wrote the software that connected the first servers on the Internet. “There’s no doubt about that at all.” He estimates that the number of Internet users in Asia may reach 2.5 billion to 3 billion, while future growth in North America will be limited.
That’s why Google is investing in connectivity to Asia. When the company resumes heavy investment in data centers, it will likely focus on building out its Asian infrastructure in anticipation of the growth Cerf describes. It has been scouting locations in the region since 2007.