Meet Marea: Microsoft and Facebook complete undersea cable

26 Sep 2017

Construction of the Marea cable began in August 2016. Image: Microsoft

Marea is complete and will be operational by early 2018.

Facebook, Microsoft and global telecoms infrastructure company Telxius have finished work on their massive 4,000-mile undersea cable.

Marea, which is Spanish for ‘tide’, can transmit up to 160Tb of data per second, which is “more than 16m times faster than the average home internet connection, making it capable of streaming 71m high-definition videos simultaneously”, according to Microsoft.

Hurricane Sandy: A catalyst for network resilience

Frank Rey, director of global network strategy for Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure and operations division, explained that the Hurricane Sandy superstorm in October 2012 led Microsoft to consider making transatlantic connections more resilient.

He said that both Microsoft and Facebook shared the same connectivity goal.

“We kept running into each other at industry events and meetings. We collectively recognised that we were each trying to solve the same problem, and could combine our technical and engineering expertise to reinforce the transatlantic network and design a better cable for global connectivity.”

The undersea cable connects Virginia Beach with the Spanish town of Bilbao.

Telxius, a subsidiary of Telefónica, joined as the third partner to manage the construction process and cable operations.

The new cable is many miles south of current connection points on both continents, which will help safeguard against natural disasters or other major events disrupting network connectivity across the Atlantic.

Marea will enable millions of high-speed connections

Marea will provide a convenient path to network hubs in Africa and Asia, and its massive bandwidth will help meet increasing cloud services demands.

President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, said that “Marea comes at a critical time”, emphasising that Atlantic submarine cables already carry 55pc more data than transpacific routes, with more of a demand for data there.

Rafael Arranz, chief operating officer for Telxius, said: “All of these applications, especially everything that is driven by video, consume a huge amount of bandwidth.

“So, everybody needs to be connected with a high-volume, high-bandwidth infrastructure. With its unique route, this cable is going to be able to absorb and deliver back-and-forth traffic to strengthen communications – not just across the Atlantic, but across the globe.”

Marea weighs 4.65m kilos (about the same as 34 blue whales) and was completed almost three years faster than a project of its scale would usually take, according to Microsoft.

The cable will be a major boost for the online infrastructure of the wider world, enabling reliable and speedy connections for particularly high-bandwidth applications.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects