Thursday, October 19, 2017

Meet Marea, Facebook and Microsoft’s latest attempt to boost internet traffic and connect the oceans

By 2018, when the cable comes online, 93% of US mobile devices and 83% of Western Europe’s mobile devices will be smart devices producing even larger amounts of data.

Facebook, Microsoft and Telxius, a subsidiary of Telefónica, have jointly announced the completion of a 6,600 Km-long subsea cable connecting the US to the north of Spain.

Named Marea, Spanish for tide, has a capacity of up to 160 terabits of data per second, more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, with the capability to stream 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously.

The cable lands on Virginia Beach on the US side and in Bilbao on the Spanish seafront. According to the developers, situating the cable many miles south of the current connection points on both continents helps safeguard against natural disasters or other major events disrupting connectivity across the Atlantic.

By landing in Bilbao, the companies also expect Marea to improve network connectivity into other regions such as Africa, Middle East and Asia.

The cable is expected to become operational by 2018, when according to Brookings, 93% of US mobile devices and 83% of Western Europe’s mobile devices will be smart devices.

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said: “Submarine cables in the Atlantic already carry 55% more data than trans-Pacific routes and 40% more data than between the U.S. and Latin America.

“There is no question that the demand for data flows across the Atlantic will continue to increase and Marea will provide a critical connection for the United States, Spain, and beyond.”

The project prompted Spanish metal manufacturer Sanjo to invest $17.5 million to build a new factory in Virginia Beach.

The cable required charting a course with average depths of almost 11,000 feet and hazards ranging from active volcanoes and earthquake zones to coral reefs. The cable, which is about 1.5 times the diameter of a garden hose, contains eight pairs of fiber optic cables encircled by copper, a hard-plastic protective layer and a waterproof coating. Some portions closer to shore are buried to protect the cable from fishing and ship traffic, but for most of its route, the cable lays on the ocean floor.

Najam Ahmad, vice president network engineering for Facebook, said Marea’s flexible design will allow the company to adapt to future needs and better support its increasingly data-intensive services.

The cable also serves Facebook’s goal of enabling users to have “deep connections and shared experiences” with people around the world, he added.

Ahmad continued: “Obviously, connectivity is one part of achieving that goal. Marea will help us connect people more quickly and efficiently.

“More broadly, robust connectivity can help a wide variety of people build relationships and collaborate between countries and across cultures.”

Also commenting, 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.”