On one level, Facebook is a social networking service used by nearly a billion people. But if you pop open the hood and peek inside, it’s starting to look more and more like a bafflingly complex telecommunications company.
On Thursday, Facebook confirmed that it’s pitching in on a new 10,000 kilometer undersea fiber optic cable that will link Malaysia, Korea, Japan, and several other Asian countries by October 2014. The story was first reported on Wednesday by Commsday.
In buying a ticket with the Asia Pacific Gateway — the consortium that’s building the submarine cable — Facebook says it will be able to “provide a better user experience for a greater number of Facebook users in countries like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Singapore.”
Facebook won’t say how many users it has in Asia, but many of these countries represent promising new markets to the company. The problem is that it can be expensive to move data around in Asia. Facebook seems to be looking to cut costs by getting control of its own fiber optic links, something that Google has also spend millions on in recent years. Facebook said on Thursday that it has no plans to build data centers in Asia, so the Asia Pacific Gateway could be very important as it tries to woo users.
The social networking company has talked about its data center wizardry in the past. It builds its own servers and has published design specifications under the aegis of the Open Compute Project. But right now, the company isn’t saying much about is plans for the Asia Pacific Gateway.
Two years ago, Google helped pay for a similar $300 million undersea cable project, called Unity, which connected Japan to the United States. And it’s part of a second consortium that is linking several Asian countries together, including Japan, China, Philippines, and Singapore.
Photo: Flickr/Jonathan Khoo