Microsoft, Facebook and a subsidiary of Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica have completed the highest-capacity undersea cable to travel across the Atlantic, capable of carrying data under the ocean at speeds of 160 Terabits per second.
Dubbed Marea, which is Spanish for tide, the 4,000-mile cable travels from the cloud hub of Virginia to Spain. Most overseas cables are located further north, so the teams pursued the project in that spot to create greater resilience among these transatlantic cables, which play a huge role in powering the internet and cloud, in the event of a natural disaster.
“Marea comes at a critical time,” Brad Smith, Microsoft president and general counsel, said. “Submarine cables in the Atlantic already carry 55 percent more data than trans-Pacific routes and 40 percent more data than between the U.S. and Latin America. There is no question that the demand for data flows across the Atlantic will continue to increase and Marea will provide a critical connection for the United States, Spain, and beyond.”
The cable’s data capacity is more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, with the capability to stream 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously. The cable’s landing spot in Bilbao, Spain, provides a convenient path to connect to network hubs in Europe, Africa the Middle East and Asia.
The impetus for the project goes back to Superstorm Sandy, which knocked out servers and phones across the East Coast. Facebook and Microsoft were both independently looking at ways to prevent such a situation from happening again during a natural disaster and decided to team up. Telxius, a subsidiary of Telefónica, later joined up with the two tech giants to manage the construction process and operate the cable.
The cable will be operational next year. Construction began in August 2016, and teams began laying the cable in the Atlantic — at an average depth of 11,000 feet — five months ago. Though the cable had to navigate risky areas like active volcanoes and coral reefs, it was completed three times faster than the typical underwater cable project, Microsoft said.