Highest Capacity Subsea Data Cable Yet Completed by Microsoft, Facebook, Telxius

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Microsoft, Facebook and telecoms infrastructure company Telxius recently completed building the highest capacity undersea cable ever cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The cable, which spans 4,000 miles between Bilbao, Spain, and the US' Virginia Beach, can transmit 160 terabits of data per second, which is 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection and equivalent to 71 million HD videos being streamed simultaneously.Dubbed Marea, Spanish for "tide," the cable lies on the ocean floor at a depth of nearly 11,000 feet, Microsoft reports. Construction personnel routed the cable so that it wouldn't come into contact with hazards like earthquake zones, coral reefs or active volcanoes. Some parts of the cable near the shore are buried to protect it from shipping and fishing traffic. 

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Marea, which is made up of eight pairs of fiber optic cables coated with copper, extends a route south of most existing transatlantic cables, which typically reach across the gap between North America, Greenland, Iceland, and northwestern Europe. The route ensures that people living in the US and Europe will not have their connections interrupted in the case of natural disasters like hurricanes.

Frank Rey, director of global network strategy for Microsoft's Cloud Infrastructure and Operations Division, called 2012's Hurricane Sandy "a major disruption" to service in a Microsoft blog post published September 25th.

"The entire network between North America and Europe was isolated for a number of hours. For us, the storm brought to light a potential challenge in the consolidation of transatlantic cables that all landed in New York and New Jersey."

Microsoft President Brad Smith also commented on the usefulness of the Marea cable. 

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"Submarine cables in the Atlantic already carry 55 percent more data than transpacific routes and 40 percent more data than between the US and Latin America. There is no question that the demand for data flows across the Atlantic will continue to increase."

In the blog post, Microsoft explains that they completed the construction of Marea in only two years, three times faster than usual, and employed an "open design," so that the cable can continue to advance with new technology.

Rey believes that the cable is "taking a step to improve the resiliency of the internet infrastructure" and is "positive for the entire global network, and a positive for people who rely on their digital devices for so many aspects of their daily life."

Google has also invested in a $300 million transpacific undersea cable that stretches from the US to Japan, South America and other countries in Asia.

Google Senior Vice President Urs Hölzle said that the capacity of the cable is "10 million times faster than your cable modem."

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