The Social Network stated today that it will invest in the new 'Apricot' undersea cable connectivity project, which aims to increase online access in the Asia Pacific, as part of its bigger push to link the world to Facebook.
The cable will run for 12,000 kilometers and connect Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. Apricot will include a state-of-the-art underwater reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer based on a space-division multiplexing design that uses a wavelength selective switch for a gridless and adjustable bandwidth configuration. Aside from the technical jargon, the Apricot project, led by Google, will expand overall transpacific web capacity by 70%, allowing even more people to connect to the internet and providing additional functionality for both individuals and businesses in the region.
Facebook's fastest-growing region is the Asia Pacific. Asia is home to about two-thirds of the world's population. Half of the world's mobile subscribers live in this region. SMBs, which make up more than 90% of enterprises in APAC, are the backbone of our global economy. In addition, the region is at the forefront of video consumption and Facebook messaging. Indeed, according to Facebook's most current statistics, Asia Pacific usage has increased the most in the last two years, making it a critical emphasis for the corporation.
Facebook needs to focus on these growth areas, especially with North American usage flatlining and European MAUs declining in the most recent quarter. With developing regions like Indonesia still in their respective digital transformations, the company could further embed itself as a key utility for many millions of more users. So long as they can use Facebook's apps, that is.
Over two billion people in Asia and the Pacific, according to estimates, do not have internet access, either because they live in remote places with no connectivity or because it is too expensive for them to do so. You can understand why the investment makes sense for Facebook, both from a public relations standpoint and in terms of supporting the global good (particularly in light of the pandemic).
In a separate announcement, Facebook announced the installation of four new branches to the 2Africa subsea cable project, which will provide online connectivity to Seychelles, the Comoros Islands, and Angola, as well as provide a new landing in south-east Nigeria.
Facebook has committed $1 billion in this endeavor, giving it yet another way to connect the next billion or more people while also allowing it to grow its global footprint and economic interests.
Of course, there is some debate over whether corporations should be allowed to control or be associated with such projects, but the truth is that many of these large-scale link pipes will not be built without corporate investment. There are tight regulations in place to prevent this, with Facebook and Google relying on their ability to attract new users rather than 'owning' web access. However, as firms attempt to leverage such programs to enhance their commercial interests, it's a fine line that must be treated carefully.