Facebook and Microsoft’s big undersea cable is finally finished


More than 17,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, there now lies the “most technologically advanced subsea cable,” providing up to 160 terabits (Tbps) of data per second — beating Google’s alternative, now poorly named, “Faster.” The cable is the handiwork of Facebook, Microsoft, and Spanish telecommunication company Telxius. 

Construction on the cable, which stretches 4,000 miles from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain, began in August 2016. Microsoft announced its completion on Thursday, but it won’t be operational until early 2018. 

Facebook, Microsoft, and Telxius will jointly own the cable, which weighs almost 10.25 million pounds — as much as 34 blue whales. Telxius will serve as the cable’s operator and will sell and lease its capacity to outside service providers. Microsoft and Facebook will use the cable to serve their own capacity needs. 

Marea coiled on a ship

Marea coiled on a ship

Image: microsoft

Most transatlantic communication cables connect to the U.S. in either New York and New Jersey, but having the Marea as its called (meaning “tide” in Spanish) connect in Virginia diversifies connectivity between the U.S. and Europe. Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, disconnected North America from Europe for several days.

“The superstorm sparked the realization that another major event could disrupt the vital connectivity lifeline across the Atlantic,” Microsoft said in a blog post. “As part of its ongoing efforts to drive innovation and expand capacity of its global network, Microsoft sought options for making transatlantic connections more resilient.” 

Microsoft will not disclose the amount of its investment, or how much its partners have paid. 

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