Grace Hopper subsea cable lands in UK

First private subsea cable to the UK funded by Google intended to improve diversity and resilience of network, underpinning consumer and enterprise products, increasing capacity and powering services such as Meet, Gmail and Google Cloud

Just over a year since it first announced it was to introduce a 16-fibre pair fibre-optic communications link to connect New York to Spain and the UK, Google has confirmed that the Grace Hopper cable has landed in Bude, Cornwall.

The Grace Hopper digital pipeline is one of the first transatlantic undersea cable connections in 17 years, with Google aiming to provide better resilience for the network that underpins its consumer and enterprise products. Google said that currently, 98% of international internet traffic is ferried around the world by subsea cable and Grace Hopper will join its other private subsea cables, Curie, Dunant and Equiano, to connect far-flung continents via the ocean floor.

The cable is named after computer science pioneer Grace Brewster Murray Hopper, who was best known for her work on one of the first linkers (compilers), which was critical in the development of the Cobol programming language. She was also credited, famously, with literally finding a bug in a program running on the early Harvard Mark II computer – a moth trapped in a panel.

Grace Hopper is the first Google-funded cable to the UK and is part of the company’s ongoing investment in the country. The IT giant said the amount that technology contributes to the UK economy has grown, on average, by 7% year on year since 2016 and that UK-based venture capital investment is ranked third in the world, reaching a record high of $15bn in 2020, despite the challenging conditions from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Google said that improving the diversity and resilience of its network was crucial to its ability to continue supporting one of the UK’s most vital sectors, as well as its long-term economic success.  

The company added that private subsea cables allow it to plan effectively for the future capacity needs of its customers and users around the world and add a layer of security beyond what is available over the public internet. Google said it was continuing that legacy of innovation by investing in the future of transatlantic communications, improving the resilience of the Google network that underpins its consumer and enterprise products, increasing capacity and powering services such as Meet, Gmail and Google Cloud.

The cable will use novel fibre switching, which Google believes will allow it to move traffic better around outages for increased reliability. Grace Hopper will use this new switching architecture to provide optimum levels of network flexibility and resilience to adjust to unforeseen failures or traffic patterns.

The multidirectional switching architecture is described as “a significant breakthrough” for uncertain times, and will integrate more tightly the upcoming Google Cloud region in Madrid into the company’s global infrastructure.

With the Bilbao landing earlier in September, Grace Hopper marked Google’s first-ever own-funded route to Spain, taking what it described as a unique path from existing cables, such as Dunant, which connects the US and France, and Havfrue, which links the US and Denmark.

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