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Google Teams With Asian Telecoms For "Faster" Undersea Cable

New submarine cable connecting U.S. and Japan will transmit up to 60 terabytes of data per second

2 min read
Submarine fiber optic cable being laid below the sea
Photo: NEC Corp

Google is looking to improve connections in the global Internet by adding some more bandwidth. A consortium made up of the tech giant and five of Asia’s largest telecommunications firms has announced a plan to construct a new fiber optic cable that will run along the floor of the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the United States, carrying up to 60 terabytes of data every second.

The new cable, known as Faster, owes its name to the aspirations of its builders—improved speed between the United States and Asia, a route along which more and more data is flowing. Cisco’s latest Virtual Networking Index predicts that by 2018, IP traffic in the Asia Pacific region will reach 47.3 exabytes per month, tripling the traffic the region saw in 2013. According to the VNI, that means that “In 2018, the gigabyte equivalent of all movies ever made will cross Asia Pacific's IP networks every 7 minutes.”

When Faster enters service, it will join nearly 300 similar cables which are now responsible for carrying an estimated 95 percent of all Internet traffic worldwide. The six-fiber-pair cable, which has an estimated price tag of $300 million, is expected to be operational by the year 2016. It will run from two locations in Japan—the cities of Chikura, in Chiba Prefecture, and Shima, in Mie Prefecture—to the west coast of the United States, where it is expected to run to major cities there like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

Image: NEC Corp
Route of the Faster cable

Though building new cables to handle increased online traffic is traditionally the realm of Internet service providers, the new cable is not Google’s first foray into the field. It also invested in the construction of the Unity cable, which began linking the United States and Japan along a route similar to the one Faster will service in 2010. In building Faster, Google teams with the firms KDDI, Global Transit, China Mobile International, China Telecome Global, and SingTel.

Japanese IT company NEC Corporation, which also built Unity, has been tapped to head construction on the project. “The FASTER cable system has the largest design capacity ever built on the Trans-Pacific route, which is one of the longest routes in the world,” said Woohyong Choi, chairman of Faster’s executive committee, in a press release. “The agreement announced today will benefit all users of the global Internet.”

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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