Google Cloud today announced a new subsea cable named Topaz that will run from the west coast of Canada, specifically, from Vancouver and the town of Port Alberni in British Columbia, across the Pacific Ocean to the cities of Shima (Mie Prefecture) in the south part of Japan, and Takahagi (Ibaraki Prefecture) in the north part of Japan.

Google Cloud Topaz Subsea Cable Map

Thus far, Google Cloud has not announced any consortium partners for the Topaz subsea cable, instead noting that it is “spearheading construction of the project” and working with “a number of local partners in Japan and Canada” to deliver the system.

Topaz Subsea Cable – Google Cloud

Google Cloud’s Topaz subsea cable will span ~6.2k miles (~10k kilometers) and is expected to be ready for service (RFS) in 2023. Once built, the Topaz subsea cable will house 16 fiber pairs, offering a total capacity of 240 terabits per second (Tbps). Notably, the Topaz subsea cable supports wavelength selective switch (WSS), which is a software-defined way to carve up the spectrum on an optical fiber pair for flexibility in routing and advanced resilience.

In Canada, the Topaz subsea cable will originate from an existing land-based telecommunications facility near Canal Beach in Port Alberni, a city located on Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia. Subsequently, the subsea cable will traverse Alberni Inlet to the Pacific Ocean and follow a Northern Pacific route to Japan.

Installation

Per the Canadian Transportation Agency, Google Cloud has sought to partner with Orange Marine, a subsidiary of French telecom company Orange S.A., as well as IT International Telecom, a marine network installer for subsea cable systems. Specifically, Orange Marine anticipates utilizing its cable laying ship named René Descartes, while IT International Telecom is providing assistance with its IT Integrity vessel, for work located in Alberni Inlet.

Orange Marine’s René Descartes ship expects to carry 5.1k tons of fiber-optic cable, repeaters, a plough, and a remote operating vehicle (ROV). Further, Orange Marine intends to use the René Descartes ship to perform the entire work related to the Topaz subsea cable project, both within and outside Canadian waters.

Rationale

Google Cloud’s Topaz subsea cable will deliver low-latency access to Search, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Cloud, amongst other Google services. At the same time, Topaz will increase capacity to the region for network operators in both Japan and Canada. For example, carriers and internet service providers (ISPs) will be able to utilize the additional capacity that the Topaz subsea cable delivers – both for their own use or to provide it to third-parties.

Additionally, Google Cloud will exchange fiber pairs on Topaz with partners who have systems along similar routes. This industry practice strengthens the intercontinental network resilience for network operators, including Google, as well as for end users globally.

Finally, Topaz is the first subsea cable to directly connect Canada and Asia, with most trans-Pacific subsea cables linking into the west coast of the United States instead. Google’s decision to choose Canada, as an alternative to the United States, may have been in-part driven by its prolonged difficult experience attempting to deploy the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) subsea cable, a trans-Pacific system originating in the U.S., in which Google is a consortium partner.

Google Cloud – Subsea Cables, Data Centers in Japan

Including the Topaz subsea cable, Google Cloud has announced investments in 20 subsea cable projects. Particularly, these subsea cables include self-funded projects such as Curie, Dunant, Equiano, Firmina, and Grace Hopper, and consortium cables like Blue, Echo, Havfrue, and Raman.

Subsea Cables in Japan

Google has invested in three currently deployed subsea cables (Unity, SJC, and FASTER) and announced investments in a further two subsea cables (Topaz and Apricot) which connect to Japan:

  • Unity (2010): Google’s first Asia-Pacific subsea cable, connecting Japan to the United States
  • SJC (2013): Pan-Asian subsea cable system connecting Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, Brunei, and Thailand
  • FASTER (2016): Trans-Pacific subsea cable connecting Japan, Taiwan, and the United States
  • Topaz (2023): subsea cable mainly led by Google with local partners, connecting Japan to Canada
  • Apricot (2024): Pan-Asian subsea cable connecting Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan
Map of Google’s Subsea Cable Investments that Connect to Japan
Google Subsea Cable Investments Japan Map

Notably, by 2026, IP transit prices are forecasted to be 35% lower in Japan due to the increased internet supply from the Unity, SJC, FASTER, Topaz, and Apricot subsea cables.

Data Centers in Japan

As of year-end 2021, Google Cloud has deployed in 11 cloud regions in Asia-Pacific, two of which are in Tokyo (2016) and Osaka (2019), Japan. Both Google Cloud regions contain three availability zones each.

Additionally, Google has announced plans to build a hyperscale data center in Inzai, Japan. Indeed, this will be Google’s first data center in Japan and its third in Asia-Pacific.

Jonathan Kim covers Fiber for Dgtl Infra, including Zayo Group, Cogent Communications (NASDAQ: CCOI), Uniti Group (NASDAQ: UNIT), Lumen Technologies (NYSE: LUMN), Frontier Communications (NASDAQ: FYBR), Consolidated Communications (NASDAQ: CNSL), and many more. Within Fiber, Jonathan focuses on the sub-sectors of wholesale / dark fiber, enterprise fiber, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP), and subsea cables.

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