Facebook and Amazon take over Philippines-to-USA sub cable after China Mobile quits

USA's Clean Networks plan appears to have scuppered Chinese participation in 108Tbit/sec CAP-1 cable


Amazon Data Services Inc. and Facebook contractor Edge Cable Holdings USA have applied to operate a submarine cable linking the Philippines to California, after China Mobile (CMI) bowed out of the project.

The cable in question is called CAP-1 and will use six fibre pairs in a design capable of carrying a theoretical maximum 108 terabits per second. The 12,000km cable is expected to be ready to carry live data in late 2022.

Paperwork for the cable initially named China Mobile, Amazon and Edge as the operators of the cable.

But the USA is currently not at all keen on Chinese carriers having any part of local telecoms infrastructure under the "Clean Networks" plan enacted by the Trump administration.

One element of the Clean Networks plan is named "Clean Cable" and states that the USA wants to ensure "undersea cables connecting our country to the global internet are not subverted for intelligence gathering by the People's Republic of China at hyper scale".

China Mobile's participation in CAP-1 was therefore unpalatable to the US government.

Chinese telcos get a better reception in the Philippines, which granted DITO Telecommunity the right to operate the nation's third mobile network in full knowledge that China Telecom owns 40 per cent of the company.

But CAP-1 won't be much use without approval to operate in the USA.

A filing [PDF] with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doesn't explain why China Mobile pulled out of the project, but does indicate legal work has started to ensure it has no involvement in CAP-1.

"After the transfer, CMI will not be a party to the CAP-1 joint build agreement or supply contract and will hold no voting or participation rights in the CAP-1 system," the filing states.

Once the legal niceties are complete, Edge/Facebook will own 83.3333 per cent of the cable and Amazon the remainder.

The filing merely notes that a licence application for the above arrangements has been accepted for filing. The FCC's lengthy review and approval process now awaits Facebook and Amazon, but with China Mobile no longer attached and NEC America doing the build there are no obvious impediments to the project's completion.

Amazon and Facebook are expected to use the cable to haul user and customer data across the Pacific Ocean. It's entirely possible data traversing CAP-1 will end up in China, as at least three submarine cables connect directly between the Middle Kingdom and the Philippines, and at least one connects to Hong Kong. ®

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