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AT&T & NTT join trans-Pacific undersea cable consortium

Two of the world's largest phone companies are joining forces with major telcos in Asia and the U.S. to build an undersea cable network that adds more network capacity and additional routes between North America with Asia.

The largest phone company in the U.S. AT&T and Japan's NTT said Tuesday that they joined an international consortium to build a new undersea network underneath the Pacific Ocean.

As more businesses expand internationally, phone companies such as AT&T are trying to diversify their networks to keep up with growing demand. AT&T said it was joining the effort to build the new Trans-Pacific Express network to help stabilize the Internet and its voice services.

AT&T and NTT are the latest members of a consortium formed 15 months ago by Verizon and a handful of Asian carriers including, China Telecom, China Netcom, China Unicom, Korea Telecom and Chungwa Telecom in Taiwan.

The groups is well on its way to getting the network up and running. A China-U.S. route is scheduled to be completed by August 2008 before the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China begin, according to Verizon. And the Japan-China route will be completed in March 2009.

As traffic on the Internet grows and becomes more global, more capacity and redundant routes are needed throughout the world. Just recently, Internet service was disrupted throughout parts of the Middle East and South Asia after three undersea cables were cut. The Trans-Pacific Express was started in late 2006, after an earthquake in Asia disrupted Internet service around the region and highlighted the need for a more stable network.

Telecommunications providers and other big technology companies, such as Google, have been stepping up to the plate to build more international capacity. For example, AT&T is also committed to helping build a separate undersea cable system called the Asia-America Gateway that connects Southeast Asia with North America in addition to joining the Tran-Pacific Express. And in February, Google announced that it would help build an undersea cable to link North America with Asia. The consortium dubbed "Unity," is comprised of Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, KDDI, Pacnet, and Singapore Telecommunications.