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Microsoft and Facebook lay some serious cable

Marea cable

The laying of the ‘highest-capacity’ transatlantic cable by Microsoft and Facebook has been completed in just over a year.

The two tech giants started work on Marea in May 2016 in partnership with Telefónica cable subsidiary Telxius and have completed the work pretty quickly. Marea goes from Virginia Beach on the east coast of the US to Bilbao in northern Spain. It claims to be the highest capacity trans-Atlantic cable – shifting 160 terabits per second.

“Marea comes at a critical time,” said Brad Smith, President of Microsoft. “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.”

Someone from Facebook pontificated about bringing people together and someone from Telxius said all this extra bandwidth might come in handy, what with streaming video, etc. The cable is also a fair bit further south than many others, which provides a potential connectivity safeguard in the case of natural disasters or other mishaps.

Unstated but presumably critical to their involvement in the project is the fact that both Microsoft and Facebook have major datacenters in Virginia. This is yet another example of tech companies trying to take more ownership of the connectivity challenge.

Elsewhere Ericsson, Telstra and Ciena have successfully encrypted in-transit data travelling at 100Gbps over multi-vendor networks on a trans-pacific cable between LA and Melbourne (or transatlantic if you believe the amusing typo in the email press release).

“This demonstration shows that customer services with large bandwidth requirements can be secured and data transported across virtually any distance and over an underlying network that uses multiple vendors,” said Darrin Webb, Executive Director of International Operations and Services at Telstra. “This means we can provide service consistency regardless of the cable system used. Customers will also be able to protect their data not only at the application layer, but also at the network layer without any reduction in quality.”


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