Facebook has announced that it, along with a consortium of other investors and firms, is investing into the development of the Asia Pacific Gateway, a new undersea cable that aims to increase the speed, availability, and reliability of internet access in South and East Asia.
News has reached us of a new investment made by Facebook into an Asian undersea cable project. Called the Asia Pacific Gateway (APG), the new cable is designed to improve internet speeds and availability for both consumers and businesses. The APG will run from Malaysia to South Korea and Japan, more than 10,000 kilometers, with branches leading to other countries along the route. A spokesman from Facebook said the investment would help support their efforts to boost membership in South Asia, which is already one of their fastest growing markets. “Our investment in this cable will help support our growth in South Asia, making it possible for us to provide a better user experience for a greater number of Facebook users in countries like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Singapore,” the spokesman said, although he declined to reveal how much the social networking giant had invested in the cable plan, only confirming that a group of investors (including Facebook) had invested a total of $450 million.
The construction and maintenance of the APG is being funded by a group that includes two of the largest Chinese ISPs, China Telecom and China Unicom. The fiber optic cable will allow faster upstream and downstream connections to North American servers. “This lowers our dependencies on Singapore as the main gateway for internet traffic,” said the consortium’s chief executive, Saiful Husni. “We can now channel high volumes of this traffic on our network with the lowest latency, directly to the US.” In essence, by removing servers in Singapore as a gateway, the latency drops as Internet signals have fewer servers and cables to go through before reaching North America.
While Facebook’s growth in the US has shown signs of a sharp slowdown according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a study by Nielsen suggested that the social network was booming in Asia, enjoying a rapid growth rate. The study showed that Japanese-based visitors to Facebook had skyrocketed to 17.2 million in May, more than doubling from the number of visitors at the beginning of the year. The report also indicated that South Korea was also enjoying a similar boom, with room for even more growth in the coming months. Despite this rapid growth, Facebook still trails behind Mixi in Japan and Cyworld in South Korea, both domestic social networks that benefit from having local servers with faster, more reliable connections than Facebook’s US-based servers.
Other markets that Facebook could capitalize on with a more reliable Asian connection are India and the Philippines, both areas with a heavy presence on Facebook but patchy connectivity. A faster, more reliable connection would benefit both users and Facebook, as usability of the site would increase, making users’ interactions easier and leading to more users for Facebook.
Facebook is not the first major internet company in the US to invest in major internet infrastructure, however. In 2008, Google announced that it would be investing in a $300 million undersea cable between Asia and the US called Unity. It was completed in April of 2010, and provides a trans-Pacific link capable of transmitting up to 7.68 Tbit/s.