Google’s wholly-owned subsidiary, GU Holdings Inc., has applied for a license to construct, land, and operate the TPU subsea cable system. This 8,370-mile (13,470-kilometer) private fiber-optic network will connect Eureka, California in the United States with Taiwan, the Philippines, and Guam. Construction is set to commence in March 2024, with the system expected to be operational by May 2025.
The TPU subsea cable system, which Google plans to operate on a non-common-carrier basis, is designed to meet the growing demand for capacity between the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region. To achieve this, the cable will add a total design capacity of approximately 260 terabits per second (Tbps) across its trans-Pacific route.
Google’s TPU subsea cable system, designed to connect the United States with Taiwan, the Philippines, and Guam, could play a pivotal role amidst rising geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China. Each landing point, strategically placed within a region of escalating conflict, stands to ensure continuous connectivity and coordination, potentially securing American interests in the face of potential Chinese aggression over Taiwan.
TPU Subsea Cable – An Overview
The TPU system, Google’s new subsea cable, is a private fiber-optic submarine cable network named after its three landing countries – Taiwan (T), Philippines (P), and United States (U). Google has applied for a license to land and operate this cable, with construction (cable laying) set to begin in March 2024 and a target ready-for-service date (RFS) set for May 2025.
As a non-common-carrier system, the TPU subsea cable capacity will support Google’s own internal bandwidth needs and services. Google may also make available bulk capacity to wholesale and enterprise customers under terms negotiated on a case-by-case basis through indefeasible rights of use (IRUs) and capacity leases.
Geographical Reach of the Cable
The TPU subsea cable will connect Eureka, California in the United States to Dawu, Taiwan; Claveria, the Philippines; and Tanguisson, Guam.
More specifically, the TPU subsea cable system will consist of the following four segments: Transpacific Segment, Taiwan Segment, Philippines Segment, and Guam Segment, along with five unused branching units.
The Transpacific Segment of the TPU subsea cable will stretch from Eureka, California in the United States to a branching unit (BU1) in the Philippine Sea between Taiwan and the Philippines. This segment will feature 16 fiber pairs and cover approximately 7,767 miles (12,500 kilometers).
Google will be the landing party in Eureka, California, United States, with the cable landing station (CLS) located at EdgeConneX’s multi-tenant ACV01 facility at 1296 11th Street in Arcata, California. Notably, EdgeConneX’s CLS in Arcata, California will also host Meta Platforms’ Echo and Bifrost subsea cables.
Google plans to contract with EdgeConneX for the use of separately-caged colocation space in the CLS, as well as for operations and maintenance (O&M) services. The agreement between Google and EdgeConneX is expected to last for an initial term of 15 years, with a potential extension by Google to 25 years.
The Taiwan Segment of the TPU subsea cable will connect Dawu, Taiwan to BU1 on the Transpacific Segment. This segment will contain the equivalent of 20 fiber pairs and span approximately 199 miles (320 kilometers). It will consist of 12 standard fiber pairs along with 4 fiber pairs that are made of 2-core fiber, a new technology that carries 2 cores, for an equivalent of 8 fiber pairs.
Of the Taiwan Segment’s total 20 fiber pairs, 16 fiber pairs will connect Taiwan to the Transpacific Segment and 4 fiber pairs will connect Taiwan to the Philippines. Importantly, these 4 fiber pairs are not connected to the 16 Transpacific Segment fiber pairs.
Google has contracted with Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd. to serve as the landing party and cable landing station (CLS) owner at a new facility in Dawu, Taiwan. Chunghwa Telecom will own the portion of the system that extends 12 nautical miles from Taiwan’s shores. However, Chunghwa Telecom will grant Google an indefeasible right of use (IRU) for the same portion of the system.
The Philippines Segment of the TPU subsea cable will connect Claveria, the Philippines to BU1 on the Transpacific Segment. This segment will contain the equivalent of 20 fiber pairs (using the same 2-core fiber design as described above) and cover approximately 323 miles (520 kilometers).
Of the Philippines Segment’s total 20 fiber pairs, 16 fiber pairs will connect the Philippines to the Transpacific Segment and 4 fiber pairs will connect the Philippines to Taiwan. Importantly, these 4 fiber pairs are not connected to the 16 Transpacific Segment fiber pairs.
Google has contracted with Innove Communications, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Globe Telecom, to serve as the landing party and cable landing station (CLS) owner at a new facility in Claveria, the Philippines. Globe Telecom will own the portion of the TPU subsea cable system that extends 12 nautical miles from the shores of the Philippines. However, Globe Telecom will grant Google an IRU for the same portion of the system.
The Guam Segment will connect Tanguisson, Guam to another branching unit (BU4) on the Transpacific Segment. The Guam Segment will have 16 fiber pairs and a length of approximately 81 miles (130 kilometers).
Google will be the landing party in Tanguisson, Guam, with the cable landing station (CLS) located at an existing facility owned by AT&T.
Unused Branching Units
The TPU subsea cable system will also be constructed with five unused branching units (BU2, BU3, BU5, BU6, and BU7) on the Transpacific Segment. At this time, there are no specific plans by Google regarding the build-out of these branches.
Key Features and Specifications
Google uses “segments” instead of “trunk” and “branch” terminology to more accurately describe the TPU subsea cable system. This is because optical fiber switching technology in the branching units allows the capacity from California to be remotely reconfigured by the system network operations center (NOC) to add/drop capacity at Guam, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
This feature enables on-demand capacity optimization between California, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Guam, meaning there is no single “trunk” route. Additionally, the power feeding will have a power drop in Guam, eliminating double-end feeding between California and either Taiwan or the Philippines.
Each fiber pair on the TPU subsea cable system will have a total design capacity of approximately 13 terabits per second (Tbps), for a total of around 260 Tbps for the entire system.
On the U.S.-Philippines or U.S.-Taiwan routes, the TPU subsea cable system will directly compete with new and existing systems including Apricot (planned), Asia-America Gateway, Asia Connect Cable-1 (ACC-1), Bifrost (planned), FASTER, Jupiter, Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), and SEAUS. It will also indirectly compete with various other systems connecting the United States with the Asia-Pacific region.
Overall, the TPU subsea cable system provides diversity by routing through Guam and directly landing in Taiwan and the Philippines, two important interconnection points in Asia. This contrasts with the traditional route between the U.S. West Coast and Japan, which includes the Trans-Pacific Express (TPE), Japan-U.S. (J-US), Pacific Crossing-1 (PC-1), Unity/EAC-Pacific, and FASTER subsea cable systems. Therefore, the TPU subsea cable system will further enhance the redundancy and resilience of trans-Pacific telecommunications.
Role of the TPU Subsea Cable in U.S.-China Tensions
Google’s new TPU subsea cable system is designed to connect the United States with Taiwan, the Philippines, and Guam. These locations are becoming increasingly important in geopolitical terms, especially amidst rising tensions between the United States and China. In the following discussion, we explore the significance of each specific subsea cable landing in relation to the geopolitical interests of the United States vis-à-vis China.
Google’s TPU subsea cable, landing in Dawu on Taiwan’s southeastern coast, could play a crucial role amidst the escalating tensions over Taiwan between the United States and China. Taiwan, a democratic, self-governing island claimed by China, is currently embroiled in a diplomatic struggle with the mainland. The likelihood of a Chinese attack or invasion of Taiwan has recently escalated.
In April 2023, China simulated a blockade and precision strikes on Taiwan during a three-day military drill, involving naval ships and fighter jets. Seemingly, these actions were a response to a meeting in California between Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Amid these geopolitical tensions, Google’s TPU subsea cable, which will provide internet connectivity, comes at a sensitive time. It could potentially thwart Chinese warfare tactics like severing subsea cables to Taiwan, thereby ensuring the island’s uninterrupted coordination with the United States and allied forces.
Furthermore, in Taiwan, Google operates another critical hub for the internet through its cloud region, known as asia-east1, spanning three availability zones. Google has invested a total of $600 million in its data center campus located in Xianxi Township, Changhua County, which is situated in the central part of Taiwan, on the island’s west coast.
READ MORE: Google Cloud’s Data Center Locations
Google’s TPU subsea cable, landing in Claveria in the province of Cagayan, in the northern Philippines, could become highly strategic amidst evolving United States and China relations. The Philippines’ proximity to Taiwan, coupled with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s pro-Western stance, has reinforced U.S. strategic interests in the region. Google’s TPU subsea cable will cross the straits between the northern Philippines and southeastern Taiwan, providing 4 fiber pairs of dedicated capacity.
After a 30-year hiatus, American troops are returning to the Philippines, bolstered by a February 2023 agreement with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for the use of four additional military bases in the country, including two in the province of Cagayan, located approximately 230 miles (370 kilometers) from the coast of Taiwan. Notably, the province of Cagayan is home to the municipality of Claveria where Google’s TPU subsea cable is landing.
In April 2023, a record joint military exercise between the United States and the Philippines took place, involving live-fire drills at sea. Further, during a May 2023 White House visit, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. received reassurances from President Joe Biden about the U.S. commitment to defend the Philippines against any Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
Google’s TPU subsea cable, landing in Tanguisson on the northwestern coast of Guam, could play a significant role amidst the developing U.S.-China relations. Guam, an American territory located approximately 1,865 miles (3,000 kilometers) from China, serves as a vital military hub for the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region, featuring key installations like the Andersen Air Force Base.
Despite its small size of just 30 miles (48 kilometers) long and a population of just over 170,000, Guam’s strategic location enables the U.S. to extend its power across Asia-Pacific. In the context of potential U.S.-China conflicts, Guam could serve as a critical starting point for physical confrontation. This makes diverse subsea cable connectivity crucial.