As part of its broader effort to connect the world to Facebook, The Social Network has today announced that it will be contributing investment to the new 'Apricot' subsea cable connectivity project, which aims to improve web access in the Asia Pacific.
As explained by Facebook:
"The 12,000-kilometer-long cable will connect Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. Apricot will feature a state-of-the-art submersible reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer employing wavelength selective switch for a gridless and flexible bandwidth configuration, based on space division multiplexing design."
I think I blacked out for a moment trying to read that. I assure you, that's the exact sentence taken from Facebook's announcement.
Technical jargon aside, the Apricot project, lead by Google, will increase overall transpacific web capacity by 70%, helping to connect even more people to the web, and provide more functionality for both individuals and businesses in the region.
As explained by Facebook's Head of Connectivity and Access Policy Asia-Pacific Tom Chottayil Varghese:
"APAC is the growth driver for Facebook. Asia has two-thirds of the world’s population living in the region. The region is home to half of the world’s mobile subscribers. More than 90% of businesses in APAC are SMBs, the backbone of our global economy. The region is also leading the use of video consumption and messaging on Facebook."
Indeed, looking at Facebook's most recent stats, Asia Pacific usage has clearly seen the most significant growth over the past two years, making it a key focus for the company.
With North American usage flatlining, and European MAUs actually declining in the most recent quarter, Facebook needs to focus on these growth areas, and with developing regions like Indonesia still in the midst of their respective digital transformations, the company could further embed itself as a key utility for many millions more users.
So long as they can actually access Facebook's apps.
According to estimates, over two billion people in Asia and the Pacific currently have no access to internet, either because they live in remote areas with no connectivity, or it's too expensive for them to do so.
You can see, then, why the investment makes sense for Facebook, both from a PR perspective, in facilitating global good (especially in light of the pandemic) and in a business sense.
On a related note, Facebook has also announced the addition of four new branches to the 2Africa subsea cable project, which will expand web connectivity to the Seychelles, the Comoros Islands, and Angola, and bring a new landing to south-east Nigeria.
Facebook has invested $1 billion into this initiative, providing another means to connect the next billion-plus users, and ideally expand Facebook's global presence and business interests.
Of course, there is also some question around whether corporate entities should be able to maintain any ownership or association with such projects, but the basic fact is that many of these large-scale connection pipelines require corporate investment, or they simply won't happen. There are strict provisions in place to regulate such, with Facebook and Google essentially banking on their own capacity to win over more users, as opposed to 'owning' web access, as such.
But it's a careful line that needs to be managed, as the companies look to also use such projects to maximize their own business interests.