Google, Amazon, Meta and Microsoft Power Weave Fiber-Optic Web
It is an exaggeration to say that Big Tech controls the Internet. Increasingly, at least in one sense, it is literally true.
The Internet seems abstract, a post-material environment where things like viral posts, virtual goods and metavars concerts happen. But creating that illusion requires a web of really vast અને and rapidly evolving physical connections.
Where those fiber-optic connections connect countries on the oceans, they consist almost entirely of underwater cable – about 1.3 million kilometers (or more than 800,000 miles) of bundled glass threads that make up the real, physical international Internet. And until recently, most of the undersea fiber-optic cable was controlled and used by telecommunications companies and governments. Today, that is no longer the case.
In less than a decade, four tech giants – Microsoft,
Google Parent Alphabet, Meta (formerly Facebook) and Amazon સુધી have so far become dominant users of undersea-cable capabilities. Prior to 2012, those companies used less than 10% of the world’s undersea fiber-optic capacity. Today, that figure is about 66%.
Analysts, submarine cable engineers and companies themselves say and all four have just begun. According to subsidiary cable analysis firm Telegraphy, they are on track to become the primary financiers and owners of the web of undersea internet cables connecting the richest and most bandwidth-hungry countries on both the Atlantic and Pacific shores in the next three years. .
By 2024, the four are estimated to have a collective ownership of more than 30 long-distance Undersea cables, each thousands of miles long, connecting every continent of the world except Antarctica. In 2010, these companies owned a stake in only one such cable – Unity Cable, which is partly owned by Google, which connects Japan and the US.
Traditional telecom companies have responded with growing skepticism and hostility to the growing bandwidth demand of tech companies worldwide. Industry analysts Have raised concerns Do we want the world’s most powerful providers of Internet services and even the marketplace to own the infrastructure on which they are all delivered? This concern is understandable. Imagine if Amazon had roads On which it delivers packages.
But the involvement of these companies in the cable-laying industry has reduced the cost of transmitting data across the oceans for everyone, even their competitors, and has helped the world increase its ability to transmit data internationally by 41% by 2020 alone, according to telegraphy. Annual accounts On submarine cable infrastructure.
Active and planned submarine cable systems
Cables is owned by Amazon, Google, Meta, or Microsoft.
Cables Amazon, Google, Meta or
Microsoft owns the stake
Cables Amazon, Google, Meta or
Microsoft owns the stake
Undersea cable can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. They require a small fleet of vessels to install and maintain, from survey vessels to specialized cable laying vessels that deploy all types of rigs. Underwater technology Bury the cable under the seabed. At times they should lay relatively delicate cables – at some points as thin as a garden hose – to a depth of up to 4 miles.
All this should be done while maintaining the right amount of tension in the cable and avoiding various hazards such as underwater mountains, Oil and gas pipelines, High-voltage transmission lines for offshore wind farms, and even shipwrecks and unexploded ordnance, says Howard Kidorf, managing partner of Pioneer Consulting, which helps companies build engineering and undersea fiber optic cable systems.
In the past, laying trans-oceanic cables often required the resources of governments and their national telecom companies. For today’s tech titans, it’s just a matter of pocket change. Microsoft, Alphabet, Meta and Amazon jointly invested more than $ 90 billion in 2020 alone.
The four say they are laying all these cables to increase bandwidth in the most developed parts of the world and to bring better connectivity to low-service regions like Africa and Southeast Asia.
That’s not the whole story. Timothy Strong, vice president of research for telegraphy, says his entry into the undersea fiber-laying business was driven by the rising cost of purchasing capacity on other-owned cables, but is now driven by his own insatiable demand for more terabytes of bandwidth. . This has reduced profits for traditional players in the cable laying industry, such as NEC, ASN and Subcom, he added. (It has done the same with the profits of capacity wholesalers on submarine cables like Tata and Lumen.)
By building their own cables, tech giants are saving themselves money over time that they will have to pay other cable operators. This means that tech companies do not need to run their cables at a profit to invest financially.
Indeed, most of these are collaborations between major tech-funded cable competitors. The Maria Cable, for example, which stretches for about 4,100 miles between Virginia Beach in the US and Bilbao in Spain, was completed in 2017 and is partly owned by Telefonica’s subsidiaries Microsoft, Meta and Telxius.,
Spanish Telecom. In 2019, Telxius announced that Amazon had signed an agreement with the company for use One in eight pairs Fiber optic strands in that cable. Theoretically, it represents one-eighth of its 200 terabit-per-second capacity જે enough to stream millions of HD movies at once.
Kevin Salvadori, vice president of the company’s network infrastructure, says Meta works with global and local partners on all of its submarine cables, as well as with other major tech companies such as Microsoft.
Sharing bandwidth between competitors helps ensure that each company has capacity on more cables, a necessity needed to keep the world’s Internet buzzing when cables are broken or damaged. According to the International Cable Protection Committee, a non-profit group, this happens about 200 times a year. (Repairing a damaged cable can be a huge undertaking that requires the same cable-laying vessels and can take weeks.)
Cable sharing with visible competitors જેમ as Microsoft does with its Maria Cable છે is key to ensuring that its cloud services are available almost all the time, something Microsoft and other cloud providers Clear promise Frank Ray, senior director of Microsoft’s Azure Network Infrastructure, says in his agreement with customers.
But the structure of these deals serves other purposes as well. Reserving certain capabilities for telecom carriers such as Telexius is also a way to prevent regulators from thinking that these American tech companies are telecoms themselves, says Mr Strong. Tech companies have spent decades arguing in the press and in court that they are not “normal carriers” like telecoms – if they were, it would expose them to thousands of pages of specific rules of that status.
“We’re not carriers – we don’t sell any of our bandwidth to make money,” says Mr Salvadori. “We are a major buyer of submarine capacity and continue to be where it is available, but in places it is not available and we need it. We are very practical, and if we have to invest to do that we will do it,” he added. Is.
The exceptions are large tech companies collaborating with competitors on the underwater infrastructure of the Internet. Google, the only major tech company, is already the sole owner of three different undersea cables and is projected to reach a total of six by 2023 via telegraphy.
Google declined to disclose whether it would share any of its cable capabilities with any other company.
Google has built and continues to build these fully owned and operated cables for two reasons, says Vijay Vusirikala, Google’s senior director responsible for all of the company’s submarine and terrestrial fiber infrastructure. The first is that the company needs them to make its own services, such as Google search and YouTube streaming, fast and responsive. The second is to gain an edge in the battle for customers for its cloud services.
Joshua Meltzer, a senior associate at the Brookings Institution who specializes in digital business and data flow, says all these proprietary changes in the Internet’s infrastructure are a reflection of what we already know about the dominance of Internet platforms by big tech.
The ability of these companies to integrate vertically up to the level of the physical infrastructure of the Internet itself reduces their cost to deliver everything from Google search and Facebook’s social networking services to Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud services. It also widens the gap between himself and any potential competitors.
“You have to imagine that this investment will ultimately make them more effective in their industries, as they can always provide services at a lower cost,” says Mr Meltzer.
For more WSJ technology analysis, reviews, advice and headlines, sign up for our weekly newsletter.
Write on Christopher Memes at [email protected]
Copyright © 2022 Dow Jones & Co., Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8