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Google’s Bermuda hub on the digital highway

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Google plans to make Bermuda a hub on the transatlantic digital highway (File photograph)

Bermuda is core to Google’s long-term strategy of building an Atlantic communications hub, the US giant said.

Once operating, Nuvem, their planned subsea cable from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Portugal, will not only mean new Bermudian jobs but also the possibility of new services through Bermuda’s existing telecommunications providers.

Discussions among the parties, much like the overall development, are still very much in the infancy stages.

Two cable branches will come ashore in Bermuda at different landing points, connecting to a purpose-built cable-landing station in St David’s.

It will be scaled for roughly four systems, or cables, starting with Nuvem. Google says there is no definitive plan for anything beyond Nuvem, but it is planning for the future.

David Robles, Google’s global subsea construction lead, said: “Bermuda is core to the strategy here of building a hub; we are going a bit out of our way adding length and cost to the project because we have this long-term objective of turning this into a hub for communications.

“Why Bermuda? Bermuda has been known as a hub for centuries, for shipping, for defence; its strategic location is well understood, and all we are doing is taking advantage of that same geography for communications.”

Mr Robles added: “We often get asked the question what benefits will this bring?”

“That is very difficult to predict, but what I can say with high confidence is that if you are not on the trade route, then none of the digital economy will evolve. You have to be connected.”

Google is planning the new cable to bolster its own services, but Mr Robles added: “We don’t know what companies are going to do. But what we do know is that they probably can’t do it without those digital highways, and the fact that they run through Bermuda is significant.

“The major significance for Bermuda is that this will be the first direct connection to Europe. Today, all the capacity — every video call, every phone call — to Europe has to pass through the US or Brazil. We think this is a leap forward.”

Google stresses that it will not be competing in the local telecom market, but it will be offering capacity to local operators, such as Digicel and One Comm, on a wholesale basis.

“We are already starting those discussions, and there seems to be some interest, but it is early days. Those providers can then pass those benefits on in the form of a retail offering.”

David Robles, Google’s global subsea construction lead

Google’s target is to have the system operational in 2026, with ground broken on a 50,000 square foot landing station in St David’s by mid-2024.

It is expected that when it is up and running, the system will create between ten and 20 jobs, and Google said it intends to employ Bermudians.

“You do need telecom skills and IT skills. Those people will have to be trained somewhere else, like at one of our other cable stations, and then return. But the intent is to find local employment for those jobs.

“It is still early days, but then you also have to take into consideration the construction phase and then whatever follow-on business this inspires in other companies.”

Fiona Beck, the local representative and adviser to Google, said the Sub Marine Communications Cables legislation, passed in 2020, was key to the firm coming to the island.

“It created a process with a timeline and a fee structure that is well defined, and you would be surprised at how rare that is.

“So this makes it appealing because it removes a lot of uncertainty for a developer like Google.”

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Published November 14, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated November 15, 2023 at 8:11 am)

Google’s Bermuda hub on the digital highway

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