China starts work on first direct undersea telecom cable to United States


BEIJING — A group of phone companies has begun constructing the first undersea telecommunications cable directly linking China with the United States, a news report said Tuesday.

The fiber-optic cable will go into operation next July ahead of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government’s Xinhua News Agency said.

The project, dubbed the Trans-Pacific Express, comes amid explosive growth in telephone and Internet traffic between China and the United States. Its developers say it will have 60 times the capacity of current cable connections between the two countries.

Current U.S.-Chinese cable links run through Japan, but Beijing sees Tokyo as a regional rival and has long wanted an independent connection to the United States.

Construction of the new cable began Monday in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao, Xinhua said.

Its developers are state-owned China Telecom Ltd., China Netcom Ltd. and China Unicom Ltd., Verizon Communications Inc. of the United States, Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom Co. and South Korea’s KT Corp.

The cable is to have connections to South Korea and Taiwan but none to Japan, according to its developers.

Verizon said last year the system would extend more than 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) and represent an investment of US$500 million.

The route of the cable is intended to minimize potential disruption from earthquakes by avoiding seismically active areas, Xinhua said. A quake in January severed an undersea cable near Taiwan, disrupting communications throughout Asia.