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Microsoft, Facebook to lay giant cable under Atlantic

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Tech giants Microsoft and Facebook say they will build the “highest-capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic,” connecting the US and Europe to address heightened demand for global cloud services.

The “MAREA” cable will “help meet the growing customer demand for high speed, reliable connections for cloud and online services” for the two companies, Microsoft said Thursday. MAREA’s estimated bandwidth capacity will reach 160 terabits per second, the company said, and will have eight fiber pairs instead of two, which is common for such cables.

The 6,600km (4,101 mile) submarine cable system will span from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Bilbao, Spain, becoming the first cable of its kind to connect the US and Southern Europe, Microsoft said. The cable system will be managed and run by Telxius, a global telecommunications infrastructure company created by Spanish telecom giant Telefónica in February.

MAREA will also connect to other network hubs in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Microsoft said the cable’s origins in Virginia, south of current cable hubs in the New York and New Jersey area, “helps ensure more resilient and reliable connections.”

“If you look at the cable systems across the Atlantic, a majority land in the Northeast somewhere,” said Najam Ahmad, Facebook’s vice president of network engineering, according to WIRED. “This gives us so many more options.”

Microsoft touted MAREA’s expectations for the companies’ cloud services.

“Microsoft and Facebook designed MAREA to be interoperable with a variety of networking equipment,” Microsoft said in its announcement. “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.”

The project will start in August and is expecting to take 14 months to complete. The companies did not offer information on the projected cost of the work.

Undersea cables of this kind are common, but these projects are typically developed through larger partnerships among telecom and technology companies. Last year, Microsoft said it had joined a group of Asian companies to construct a cable — the New Cross Pacific Cable Network — to cross the Pacific Ocean.


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