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Google readies Pacific-spanning, Verizon-battling underwater comm cable

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In yet another bid to free itself from the Verizons of the world, Google will soon drag a multi-terabit communications cable under the Pacific Ocean.

After top-secret talks with carriers in Sydney, the world's largest search engine aims to lay down the so-called "Unity cable" by 2009, according to Australian news service Communications Day.

Once the cable is in place, the news service reports, Google will have its very own trans-Pacific fibre pair, able to ship data across the ocean without paying the sort of hefty rental fees that arch-net-rivals Yahoo! and Microsoft are paying.

When contacted, Google commented in a we-decline-to-comment kind of way. "Additional infrastructure for the internet is good for users and there are a number of proposals to add a Pacific submarine cable," company spokesman Barry Schnitt told us. "We're not commenting on any of these plans."

But this wouldn't be the first time the company attempted an end-run around the world's telco giants. Google has already invested in scads of underground fibre across the globe, and it's flirting with a $4.6bn bid for a prime portion of the US wireless spectrum.

According to Communications Day, Google's trans-Pacific Unity cable has been in the works for several months. The news service can't say which carriers the Mountain View outfit is working with on the project, but it does indicate that the company is not partnering with Telekom Malaysia, the primary player behind another Pacific fibre project: the Asia America Gateway cable.

Google's project is also butting heads with a proposed $500m US-to-China cable from Verizon and its partners. And according to Dave Burstein, editor of trade paper DSL Prime, other multi-nationals are already offering unused Pacific fiber by the, well, boatload.

Google has so much cash, it's now competing head-to-head the world's biggest telcos. "That's why this is a story," Burstein told us. "Google has gotten so big that it's now playing side-by-side with [Verizon] - which, along with AT&T, is one of the biggest networks in the world. They're not buying from the Verizons of the world. They're building their own."

As Communications Day points out, recent Google job adverts may have spilled the beans where this underwater project is concerned. The company is looking to hire "submarine cable negotiators". "These negotiators will work closely with vendors to identify highly cost-effective solutions under the most favorable commercial and technical terms possible," reads one ad. "They will also be involved in new projects or investments in cable systems that Google may contemplate to extend or grow its backbone."

Naturally, Google shrugged this one off too. "It should come as no surprise that Google is looking for qualified people to help secure additional network capacity. In some parts of the world, these people will work with submarine cables because there is a lot of ocean out there."

There is a lot of ocean out there. And we wouldn't be surprised if Google has its eyes on all of it. ®

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