China expands Internet backbone to improve speeds, reliability

The country has added seven new interconnection points with Internet backbone networks

An Internet Cafe in Beijing.

An Internet Cafe in Beijing.

Even as China cuts access to some foreign online services, it is laying more fiber optic cables to improve its connection to global Internet networks.

China recently added seven new access points to the world's Internet backbone, adding to the three points that connect through Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced on Monday.

To expand its Internet backbone networks, China laid over 3,000 kilometers worth of fiber optic cable, and invested 2.9 billion yuan (US$477 million) in its construction. Driving the project were the country's three state-owned telecom operators, which provide most of China's Internet broadband.

The additional Internet infrastructure will help accelerate access speeds across the country, and ensure China's Internet stays functional, the ministry added.

Before, "a failure at one access point could easily cause a large-scale paralysis," the ministry said. This happened in late 2006 when an earthquake damaged undersea cables, and temporarily cut some of China's access to international websites.

"Now by having 10 different backbone access points, the traffic going through Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou will lessen, and the Internet flow overall will be more balanced," the ministry said.

The additional access points were built in seven separate cities, most of which are more inland, such as Chengdu, Xi'an and Zhengzhou.

Tests of the new Internet infrastructure showed website loading times cut by half or more, according to the ministry.

The country has the world's largest online population, at over 600 million users, and domestic Internet companies such as Alibaba Group, Baidu and Tencent are all expanding their services outside China.

But last year, China's Internet censorship rose to new levels, with the blocking of more foreign Internet services. In late December, the country cut all access to Google's Gmail service, after blocking Facebook's Instagram app, and the phone messaging app Line.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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