Google to run Firmina subsea cable between US and Argentina

The tech giant hopes this will help improve Google services for users in South America

Google will build an open subsea cable between the US and Argentina in a bid to improve Google services for users in South America.

The cable, named after Brazilian abolitionist and author Maria Firmina dos Reis, will run from the East Coast of the US to Las Toninas, Argentina, with additional landings in Praia Grande, Brazil, and Punta del Este, Uruguay, the company announced yesterday.

The tech giant claimed the cable will be the longest in the world capable of running entirely from a single power source at one end of the cable if the other power source becomes temporarily unavailable.

The company said the cable's 12 fibre pairs will carry traffic quickly and securely between North and South America, giving users fast, low-latency access to Google consumer and cloud services.

A simple map of North and South America showing the Firmina cable's route

"This is great news for the region which shows a continuation of investments to guarantee access to digital services, which became essential during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Argentina's secretary of public innovation Micaela Malcolm in a tweet.

Data travels along these submarine cables as pulses of light inside the cable's optical fibres, which is then amplified every 100km with a high-voltage electrical current supplied at landing stations in each country. While shorter cable systems can benefit from the higher availability of power feeding from a single end, this is typically less effective in longer cables with large fibre-pair counts.

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However, Google's new cabling system will be the longest ever to feature single-end power feeding capability, achieved by increasing the supplied voltage by 20% thanks to its "highly-resilient design".

The Firmina system is the company's 16th sub-sea cable investment, following the building of the Equiano and Grace Hopper networks.

Google's other cable to South America, dubbed 'Curie' after Marie Curie, runs from the US to Chile. The company tested the cable in November 2019 and began transmissions in 2020, carrying data at 73 Tbits/sec between the two regions. It made Google the first non-telecommunications company to create a private intercontinental network and was the first one installed in Chile for 20 years.

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