Marea, you gotta see her: New cable links US with Spain

27 May 2016

Microsoft and Facebook are teaming up to build a 160tbps transatlantic cable, strengthening the cable ties between the US and Europe.

Work on the new 6,600km cable called Marea will begin in August, linking Bilbao with Virgina in what will be the first cable connecting the US and southern Europe.

This is pretty far south of other transatlantic cables – with the New York area on the US side, Ireland and the UK on the European side, far more common – which Microsoft hopes will “ensure more resilient and reliable connections” on into other EMEA areas.

Bigger and better

Designed to be interoperable with a variety of networking equipment, both Facebook and Microsoft claim this cable is different to ones that came before, bringing “significant benefits to customers”.

Lower costs, easier equipment upgrades and faster growth in bandwidth rates are expected, which is “critical” for cloud operations.

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

Irish influence

Last August, Mayo welcomed a 5,475km direct transatlantic fibre-optic cable that cost $300m to complete

As well as being capable of handling one-third of the world’s telephone calls, the initial capacity provides for more than 1.6m ultra-high-definition video channels running simultaneously, or more than 32m 4G wireless callers. It will also have a latency speed of 53.8 milliseconds.

That cable eventually made it to the UK, with Cork tapping into another US-UK cable called Hibernia Express. That one is shorter still, at 4,600km.

Earlier this week, a joint research effort by BT and Huawei to create the fastest data transfer speed set a new record speed of 2tbps between Dublin and London.

Laying a cable image, via Shutterstock

*[Update at 14.45, 27 May]* An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Mayo recently welcomed Ireland’s first cable

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic