Google Cloud and SubCom today announced a new open subsea cable named Firmina that will run from the East Coast of the United States to Las Toninas, Argentina (~160 miles south of Buenos Aires), with additional landings in Praia Grande, Brazil (state of São Paulo), and Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Firmina Subsea Cable Map

Google Cloud’s goal with Firmina is to improve access to Google services for users in South America. Specifically, the subsea cable will carry data traffic back-and-forth between North America and South America. In turn, this connectivity will provide users with fast, low-latency access to Google products such as Search, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Cloud.

System Details – Google Cloud’s Firmina Subsea Cable

Google Cloud is funding the entirety of the Firmina subsea cable project, without any participation from traditional telecom operators. Indeed, this is a similar blueprint that the company used for its Dunant, Equiano, and Grace Hopper subsea cable projects. Dgtl Infra estimates that Google Cloud will be investing $200m+ to build-out the Firmina subsea cable.

Fiber Pairs

Firmina is designed as a 12-fiber pair trunk.

Timing

Firmina is targeting main lay installation operations for the summer 2022. Therefore, the system will be ready for service (RFS) by the end of 2023.

System Supplier

SubCom will design, manufacture, and deploy the Firmina subsea cable as part of its contract-in-force with Google Cloud. To-date, SubCom has deployed over 200 networks for its customers, including a number of other subsea cables for Google Cloud.

Firmina Subsea Cable’s Unique Resiliency

Firmina has a unique design for reliability and resiliency, which are two key priorities for Google Cloud’s network. Specifically, Firmina will be the longest subsea cable in the world capable of running entirely from a single power source at one end of the cable, if its other power sources become temporarily unavailable (i.e., in the event there is a far-end fault).

Differentiating Factors

Functionally, data travels over subsea cables in the form of pulses of light inside the cable’s optical fibers. That light signal is amplified every 62 miles (100 kilometers) with a high-voltage electrical current supplied from cable landing stations in each country.

Shorter subsea cable systems can benefit from the higher availability of power feeding from a single end. Whereas longer subsea cables, such as Firmina, with greater fiber-pair counts make this strategy more difficult to implement.

However, Firmina’s resilient design is accomplished by supplying the cable with a voltage 20% higher than with previous systems. Specifically, SubCom’s 18kV technology will enable the Firmina cable to run entirely from a single power source.

Google Cloud – Subsea Cable Portfolio

Overall, Google Cloud has made investments in 16 subsea cables, including Firmina. These subsea cables include self-funded projects such as Dunant, Equiano, and Grace Hopper, and consortium cables like Echo, JGA, INDIGO, and Havfrue. Below are further details on select subsea cable projects which, similar to Firmina, Google Cloud chose to self-fund:

  • Dunant: 12-fiber pair subsea cable that connects the United States with France
  • Equiano: 12-fiber pair subsea cable that connects Portugal, Nigeria, and South Africa
  • Grace Hopper: 16-fiber pair subsea cable that connects the United States with Spain

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