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Facebook and Microsoft to lay massive undersea cable to cater for growing data demand

Facebook and Microsoft are collaborating in laying a massive data cable across the Atlantic. The project dubbed Marea will run more than 4000 miles across the ocean, starting in Virginia in the U.S. to Bilbao in Spain. It will have eight pairs of fiber optic strands making it the highest capacity link across the Atlantic

Telxius, a subsidiary of Spanish telecommunication and broadband giant, Telefonica, will operate project Marea. Its construction is set to begin in August with its completion expected in October next year.

Marea marks the latest project in a series of major cable project being undertaken by high-tech companies due to the growing demand for internet bandwidth. Once completed it is expected to increase significantly the amount of data that can be carried across the Atlantic.

Najam Ahmad, who is Facebook’s vice president of network engineering, noted during the announcement that around a dozen high capacity cables are being laid across the ocean by different companies. Facebook wants to do more of these projects by undertaking in its latest undersea cable. In a joint statement, the two companies stated that the new cable would help lower the cost, accommodate the explosion of data, and accelerate bandwidth rate around the world.

The companies declined to provide an estimated cost for the project though according to Alan Mauldin, research director for the market analysis firm TeleGeography, new trans-Atlantic cable usually requires more than $200 million to build though expense varies depending on the project. The companies will first seek regulators’ approval for lines that domestic security agencies consider part of their countries’ critical infrastructure.

As of now, Google either has or plans to invest in five undersea cables. It laid its first in 2010, Dubbed Unity. It is 6,200 miles long and links the US and Japan. Microsoft has four undersea cables. Facebook has two while Amazon has one. Mauldin notes that it would be unwise to rely on a single cable because if it breaks it could result in lots of inconveniences.

Currently, a majority of traffic on undersea Atlantic is from companies for their transmission, private networks, and not telecommunication companies. The demand for bandwidth in the past five years has shifted from traditional telecom businesses to the large content providers. The necessity for bandwidth is growing rapidly to a level that it makes sense for high-tech companies to invest in their infrastructure.

Image Credit: Agence France

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