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Facebook and Google reveal plans to build subsea cables between U.S. and Southeast Asia

Facebook and Google are planning to lay two huge subsea cables that will link the U.S. West Coast to Singapore and Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and home to a growing number of smartphone users. 

The Echo and Bifrost trans-Pacific cables will increase the data capacity between the regions by 70% and improve internet reliability, Facebook said Monday.

While Facebook is investing in both cables, Google is only investing in Echo. The cost of the projects, which are still subject to regulatory approvals, has not been disclosed.

“We are committed to bringing more people online to a faster internet,” Facebook’s vice president of network investments, Kevin Salvadori, and network investment manager Nico Roehrich wrote in a joint blog post. “As part of this effort, we’re proud to announce that we have partnered with leading regional and global partners to build two new subsea cables — Echo and Bifrost — that will provide vital new connections between the Asia-Pacific region and North America.”

Partners include Indonesian firms Telin and XL Axiata, and Singapore-based Keppel.

The aim is for Echo to be completed by late 2023, while Bifrost is set to be finished by late 2024.

Last May, Facebook announced plans to build a 37,000-kilometer (22,991-mile) long undersea cable around Africa to provide it with better internet access.

Google is also working on an underwater cable called Equiano, which aims to connect Africa with Europe. The web search titan has another unit, Loon, which makes high-altitude balloons that deliver 4G internet to rural communities. It recently announced an expansion of that plan to Mozambique.

Facebook previously had plans to beam internet to remote areas using solar-powered drones. Called Aquila, the company shuttered the project in 2018 but has reportedly been working with Airbus to test similar drones again in Australia.