Telecom giants NTT and AT&T are joining a next-generation underwater cable project to speed up booming Internet traffic between Asia and North America, an AFP report said.
The AFP report said the entrance of NTT Communications ensures that a branch of the "Trans-Pacific Express" fiber optic cable network will connect with Japan, Asia's largest economy.
The project, which already involves companies from China, Taiwan and AT&T's rival Verizon Communications, was originally estimated to cost some $500 million.
In the first phase, a cable stretching 17,000 kilometers from China's east coast to the western US state of Oregon is set to go into service by August, in time to transmit high-speed data from the Beijing Olympics, the AFP report said.
The link is expected to have some 60 times the capacity of an existing one under the ocean.
The new cable is expected to help avoid breakdowns in Internet traffic similar to what occurred following a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck the seabed near Taiwan in December 2006, snapping undersea telecom cables.
NTT Communications said in a statement that the branch connecting Japan with other parts of Asia would be operational by the first quarter of 2009, with a Japan-US section finished by early 2010.
Neither firm disclosed financial terms, but AT&T said its contribution would be part of $1 billion the company has budgeted this year to expand services for multinational companies.
The companies already in the consortium are mainland Chinese companies China Telecom, China Netcom and China Unicom, as well as Korea Telecom, Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom and Verizon, the AFP report further said.