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Google to build new undersea cable to connect Latin America and the U.S. (reuters.com)
145 points by jonbaer 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments





The Reuters article made a mistake:

> The cable, called Firmina, will be the longest cable in the world, Google said in a blog post, adding that it will run from the East Coast of the United States to Las Toninas, Argentina, with additional landings in Praia Grande, Brazil, and Punta del Este, Uruguay.

This is a misquote from the original https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/infrastructure/announ... :

> Firmina will be the longest cable in the world capable of running entirely from a single power source at one end of the cable if its other power source(s) become temporarily unavailable—a resilience boost at a time when reliable connectivity is more important than ever.

As you would expect, TRANSPAC is much longer:

> 1995 No.5 Trans-Pacific Cable Network(TPC-5) (Laid cable length: approx.2,958 km)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpac_(cable_system)


What exactly does "additional landings" mean here. I usually think of a cable as connecting two places.

Is it basically multiple cables that connect to the same exchange onshore?

Or is there a router "at sea" where the cables fork?

Or does some of the cable from the US terminates in Brazil, some terminate in Punta del Este, ...


Depends on the cable. In some cases, the fiber bundle will be fully terminated at the landing, which serves as a junction point where the logical path for the cable system then resumes via a different cable to the next landing in the path. In other cases, a fraction of the fiber bundle will be split (either physically or with a subsea multiplexer device) and directed to a nearby landing, with the remainder of the fiber continuing onwards.

On these newer cables they tend to use wavelength-selective switches at BUs.

>Firmina will improve access to Google services for users in South America...giving users fast, low-latency access to Google products such as Search, Gmail and YouTube, as well as Google Cloud services

When companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft build cables do they ever let people besides themselves use it for a price? It would be unfortunate if millions of people had no choice but to use Google etc services because they were the only ones that performed well enough.


They fund some cables, but most of them are not private to my knowledge. A cursory search suggests that of 16 undersea cable investments by Google, this one is one of six that are private to Google. So maybe there can be some partial relief in that the cables actually have a diverse set of owners and funders still. I’m not sure where this puts us practically.

There is competition. Businesses that aren't large enough to fund their own cables buy bandwidth from large ISP's, which are likely to invest in more undersea cables when they anticipate selling more bandwidth.

Meanwhile, the big content providers are using two thirds of the bandwidth. It seems like if everyone suddenly switched to something else then that would cause a lot of disruption, but not if the change is gradual.


It's vertical integration. As long as we're wishing for fairness I wish Apple would share those tasty M1 processors with the rest of the non-Mac world.


Well the upside is that all of the traffic that would normally go to Google is gonna be shifted towards their own private line. That may not be a latency improvement like Google services would get, but it is still a throughput improvement.

Isn't peering a key part of how the Internet works? I can also see any company using Google Cloud Services would benefit with connecting to users in South America.

Peering won't get non-Google traffic on a Google cable. But as a sibling points out, Google moving traffic to its own cable may free up room on existing cables.

Most of these cables are built in partnership with other companies, often including major transit providers.


Generally yes in the case that other parties help out — for example Marea was Microsoft, Facebook, and Telexius. Telexius sells capacity on that cable.

Others are Google exclusive, and they do not currently sell capacity to my knowledge.


cables are almost never exclusive, the economics just make more sense if you have partners because adding extra capacity before you start laying cable has a very low marginal cost



So this is a private cable only used for Google services? I noticed connections to the US are so much better from Europe than in Argentina, would be a shame only the Googlenet gets a decent speedboost.

Since Google Cloud service are included, others may pay to use Firmina 'indirectly' ...

> the cable will carry traffic quickly and securely between North and South America, giving users fast, low-latency access to Google products such as Search, Gmail and YouTube, as well as Google Cloud services.

See also: Internet transit agreements

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_transit


Just note that those three countries are hardly all of Latin America and are usually best described as part of South America (and southern South America at that).

That's about 245~ million people and almost all of SA's Atlantic coastline. It might be more appropriate to say it's Eastern South America rather than 'all of Latin America' OR 'southern South America' for that matter..

Imagine if Ford and GM started building roads and tolling who gets access ...

Given the strategic importance of such things, I hope there are good regulations in place.


Off-topic: How do / Where can I learn about world network infrastructure? I'll use Google, Obi-wan. I just seek wisdom of local wizards. Thanks!

"Mother Earth Mother Board" (1996) by Neal Stephenson is great narrative nonfiction on the subject: https://www.wired.com/1996/12/ffglass/

This is a pretty fun starting point: https://www.submarinecablemap.com/

NANOG has presentations on low-level stuff. A comment of mine from a few days ago links to some videos:

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27412527

I'm sure you'll get a bunch of "related" videos on YouTube after watch them.




How much do these cables cost?

The Unity cable from Japan to the US cost $300 million (~10,000km) in 2010

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unity_(cable_system)


$30k a kilometer is not bad all things considered.

Or 30$ a meter. Cheaper than Thunderbolt cables, I'm really amazed especially how much actual human effort is required in cable-laying.

Thats very surprising inded, i shluld switch to using marine cables in my setup

The cable may be cheap but the adapters are gonna kill ya. :)

Wow I would have guessed 10x that

If this were government doing it, it would've been 10x that ;)

That would make that single cable 1/3 the price of the LHC. I’m glad it doesn’t cost that much!

We generally assume the internet is empowering but part of that assumption expects personal computing and an understanding of the web (IMO.)

Getting your android phone a better connection to Google/Facebook is probably more empowering to Google than you.


Google does wonders for access to information in developing countries. It empowers a whole generation to tap into the world's knowledge efficiently and learn new skills and ideas. Facebook does wonders as well for connecting people together and empowering small business owners.

The glass half-full. Of course there are problems with what they're doing and they're definitely not being altruistic. But IMO the benefits outweigh the costs.

Faster internet access for developing countries? Sign me up.

I'm flabbergasted - I come to expect more nuance from HN, and all I'm seeing in this thread is "to hell with this potentially great thing, because fuck the great evils Google and Facebook".


obligatory link to the canonical Neal Stephenson article on undersea cables:

https://www.wired.com/1996/12/ffglass/


So NSA needs more involvement in South America. Fear the greeks when they bring you presents.

Something something ... Net Neutrality ... something something.

I find surprising that Brazil, Urugay accepts US-based infrastructure between their countries. It is surrendering their data sovereignty.

Everybody loves US. Especially when they have military bases on their soil or an aircraft carrier in the harbour. They are very nice. They borrow you money, they help with the economy. The only thing they ask is that you not restrict american companies in doing "business".

Your sarcasm would be funny except for the fact that almost all serious US partners are doing fine and have vibrant democracies. Regardless of continent or history, race, etc. Japan Europe SK Colombia etc.

At least in case of Brazil, it helps that the FBI assisted the Car Wash operation arrest a relatively autonomous front-runner presidential candidate on trumped up charges, to empower the puppet rainforest burner, negationist chloroquine peddler that rules there now, stacking a pandemic body count close to five hundred thousand in the process, and counting up. See https://theintercept.com/2020/03/12/united-states-justice-de...



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