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:

“It will run over 12,000 kilometers and link Japan with Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore, among other destinations. Using a space division multiplexing architecture, Apricot will be equipped with a state-of-the-art underwater reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer that employs a wavelength selective switch to provide gridless and variable bandwidth configuration.”

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 most important growing market for Facebook. Asia is home to two-thirds of the world’s population, which makes it the most populous continent on the planet. The area is home to half of all mobile phone subscribers on the planet. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMBs) account for more than 90 percent of all companies in APAC, and they form the backbone of our global economy. In addition, the area is a leader in the consumption of video and the usage of Facebook messaging.”

Indeed, according to Facebook’s most current use statistics, the Asia Pacific region has definitely experienced the most substantial increase over the last two years, prompting the firm to make the region a major focus of its efforts.

Facebook Q2 2021

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 has the opportunity to further embed itself as a key utility for many millions more users in the coming years.

It doesn’t matter whether or not they can really access Facebook’s applications.

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.

The investment makes sense for Facebook, both from a public relations standpoint, in terms of promoting global good (particularly in light of the epidemic), and from a financial one. Facebook’s investment is a win-win situation.

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.

2Africa web connectivity project diagram

Approximately $1 billion has been committed by Facebook to this project, which will serve as another way of connecting the next billion-plus users and, hopefully, expanding Facebook’s worldwide footprint and commercial interests.

Of course, there is considerable debate over whether corporate organizations should be permitted to retain any ownership or affiliation with such projects, but the fundamental reality is that many of these large-scale connecting pipes will not be built unless substantial corporate investment is made. There are strong regulations in place to prevent this from happening, with Facebook and Google basically relying on their own ability to attract more users rather than ‘owning’ online access as a result.

However, it is a fine line that must be treaded carefully since the businesses are looking to utilize such initiatives to further their own commercial goals as well.