Press reports from China’s government news agency indicate that construction has begun on the Trans-Pacific Express (TPE), the first undersea telecommunications cable to link China directly with the US. Developed by China Telecom, China Netcom and China Unicom in cooperation with Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom, South Korea’s KT Corp. and Verizon Communications, the $500 million TPE system will span 11,000 miles. Work on the fiber-optic system commenced this week in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdow, and the project is slated for completion in July 2008 in time for the Beijing Olympic Games. Unlike existing Chinese-U.S. cable links that run through Japan, the TPE system will bypass Japan and will terminate in Oregon with connection points to South Korea and Taiwan. Sources say that the route was designed to avoid seismically active areas that pose the risk of service disruptions. (Last January, an undersea earthquake near Taiwan caused major disruptions to telecom service throughout Asia.) When complete, the TPE system is expected to support the equivalent of 62 million simultaneous calls, which, reportedly, represents 60 times the capacity of current undersea connections between the U.S. and China.