Fiber optic ocean cable connects U.S. to Asia

March 11, 2010 6:47:06 PM PST
A ship docked at San Francisco's Pier 80 is launching a new state-of-the-art cable connecting the U.S. to Asia. This data cable affects everything from your video downloads to financial trades.

With its massive size and gleaming exterior, you could confuse the vessel for a cruise ship, but it deals in a different kind of traffic. This ship has just completed laying down a new fiber-optic cable across the Pacific Ocean; a new undersea information super highway.

Bill Barney is the CEO of Pacnet, part owner of the cable.

"This cable gives us 20 percent more Internet capacity all the way to Asia, so if you want to look at videos coming out of Asia from China or Japan, it will be much faster now," said Barney.

The demand for content flows the other way too; Asians are hungry for U.S. content, our YouTube videos, flash games, social networks and mobile phone apps -- all of which the cable can transmit. About 6,200 miles of the cable now links the West Coast to Asia. Google and five other international companies invested in the $300 million venture.

Telecommunications companies are racing to build expressways for data across the Pacific. Without more information from them, Internet users can expect more traffic jams and delays.

The NASDAQ Exchange is one client using the new cable to handle stock trades literally at the speed of light. NASDAQ's president says if a broker's platform is a few milli-seconds behind the competition, it could lose millions of dollars per second.

"It is as important as the development of the railroads and the highways. So this allows us to connect the world together, allows business and society to be conducted in the digital nature that exists today," said NASDAQ President Bob Greifeld

The cable is armored to protect it against fishing boats and earthquakes. And when it needs repair or service, it calls on a rover that looks like the movie robot "WALL-E."


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