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May 27, 2016updated 30 Aug 2016 5:25pm

Microsoft, Facebook partner in history’s first high-capacity transatlantic cable

News: Companies to link America to Spain over need for speed sparked by VR, live streaming services and cloud hungry markets.

By Joao Lima

Two of the biggest technology companies in the world have come together to deploy a subsea cable connecting the US to Europe in order to boost online content provision.

Microsoft and Facebook will initiate construction of the Marea cable next August, with the project expected to be completed by October 2017.

The submarine cable system will be operated by Telxius, Telefónica’s telecommunications infrastructure company, and connect Virginia Beach, Virginia, US, to Bilbao, Spain. Once in Europe, the network will branch out to other hubs in the continent, the Middle East and Asia.

The cable is set to measure 6,600 Km, with the companies claiming it to be the highest-capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic, featuring eight fiber pairs and an initial estimated design capacity of 160Tbps.


Microsoft said the cable is going to be deployed south of existing transatlantic cable systems that primarily land in the New York/New Jersey region, in order to be physically separate from these other cables.

The company believes this will help to ensure more resilient and reliable connections for customers in the United States, Europe, and beyond.

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Frank Rey, director of global network acquisition at Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations, said the reason why the company has entered the joint project with Facebook is because Microsoft is "seeing an ever-increasing customer demand for high speed, reliable connections for Microsoft cloud services, including Bing, Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Azure".

Rey said: "Microsoft and Facebook designed Marea to be interoperable with a variety of networking equipment. This new "open" design brings significant benefits for customers: lower costs and easier equipment upgrades which leads to faster growth in bandwidth rates since the system can evolve at the pace of optical technology innovation.

"This is critical to ensure the Microsoft Cloud continuously improves to provide the highest availability and performance our customers need for their mission-critical workloads and data."

Microsoft and Facebook have not disclosed the capital expenditure related to the project.

Projects to deploy transatlantic cables have boomed over the last 10 months. In August 2015, Hibernia Networks announced it was deploying a 4,600Km route connecting Nova Scotia, Canada to Cork, Ireland.

Less than a week after Aqua Comms’ announcement, Equinix and Aqua Comms unveiled their own plans to build a 5,400Km subsea system linking New York to London.

However, the last time a content provider giant entered a transatlantic cable deployment, was in August 2014, with Google partnering in a $300m project with China Mobile International, China Telecom Global, Global Transit, Google, KDDI, Singte, and NEC Corporation. The Faster cable is going to connect the US to Japan and then to China, and is expected to come online in Q2 2016.

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