Google and Orange building cable between US and France

Telecoms firm Orange has teamed up with Google to work on a private undersea cable connecting the Atlantic coasts of France and the United States.

Measuring 6,600km in length, the undersea cable will be named Dunant after Henry Dunant, the first Nobel peace prize winner and founder of the Red Cross. When it comes online in 2020, it will provide Orange alone with a capacity of “more than 30 terabits per second, per [fibre] pair” – enough, the company says, “to transfer a 1GB movie file in 30 microseconds”. Neither Orange nor Google released information about the total capacity of the cable, nor how they would allocate it between them.

The cable will be the first new submarine cable between the US and France in 15 years. It’s Google’s fourth completely private undersea cable, following two short-distance tests, named Alpha and Beta, and the long-distance Curie cable – named after the famed physicist Marie Curie – that links the US west coast to Chile. That cable, which will come online in 2019, will make Google the first major non-telecom company to build a private intercontinental cable. It is also the first subsea cable to land in Chile in almost 20 years, and will be the largest single data pipe connecting the country to the rest of the world.

Google builds private cables, the company says, to provide better performance, latency and capacity for its cloud customers. In this case, building the cable privately allows it to ensure that its landing points are as close as possible to its Belgian and North Virginian data centres.

“The role of submarine cables is often overlooked, despite their central role at the heart of our digital world,” said Stéphane Richard, the chairman and CEO of Orange. “I am extremely proud to announce this collaboration with Google to build a new, cutting-edge cable between the USA and France.”

Orange said the partnership will leave it “in a stronger position to support the development of new uses for its consumer and enterprise customers in Europe and America”.

Including consortium-led projects, Google has another seven cables coming online over the next two years, connecting locales such as Hong Kong, Guam, Australia, Ireland, Denmark and California.