A cable stretching 4,000 miles between the US and Spain is the key to a high-speed future

6,000 metres beneath the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, traversing live volcanoes, coral reefs and earthquake zones, lies an unassuming cable around 1.5 times the diameter of a garden hose.

Stretching 4,000 miles across from Virgina Beach in the US, to Bilbao in Spain however, the new Marea cable, which can carry information at blistering speeds, is exponentially more important than its appearance would suggest.

Dubbed Spanish for “tide”, Marea is capable of transferring data at a staggering 160Tbps. It’s so fast, in fact, that it’s capable of sending eight times the entirety of the US Library of Congress’ collection, in a single second.

Coming to fruition after Microsoft and Facebook agreed to partner on the development, Spanish telecommunication infrastructure company Telxius, a subsidiary of telecom provider Telefónica, joined as the third partner to manage the construction process and operate the cable.

With construction beginning in August 2016, Marea began its journey across the Atlantic approximately five months ago. The physical work to manufacture and lay the cable has now been completed, and it’s planned to be operational in early 2018.

The Marea cable coiled on ship (RUN Studios)

A bridge between worlds
From uploading photos, searching webpages, backing up files and more, most people are aware of the power and dependency we have on the internet – but few understand the crucial role played by the network of undersea cables that web across the globe, beneath our oceans.

“Europe urgently needs a boost in high-speed connectivity. As cloud computing and the internet of things become increasingly prevalent, drive digital transformation across sectors, and maintain European competitiveness, the new Marea cable is the sort of digital infrastructure that we need for a connected Europe.” – Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General, DIGITALEUROPE

“It is great news for all those European consumers and businesses who will benefit from the ultra-fast and resilient connections enabled by this new transatlantic cable.”

Marea is the highest-capacity subsea cable to cross the Atlantic, with speeds more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, able to stream 71 million HD videos simultaneously.

The cable’s landing point in Bilbao provides a convenient path to network hubs in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and its enormous bandwidth will help meet the increasing demand for internet and cloud services.

The project also builds on the strong historical relationship of the US and Spain, setting the stage for greater engagement in the future. Economic relations between Spain and the United States continue to grow substantially, boosted by the increasing Spanish business presence in the US and greater US investment in Spain.

Gontzal Hermosilla, Mayor of Sopella – the town on the north east side of Bilbao where the Marea cable entry point is situated – believes that “Digital connections… are key for both the Basque Country and Europe, because the level of information that we are going to be exchanging is going to be enormous compared to previous eras.

Final installation of Marea cable on shore (RUN Studios)

An investment in the future
With nearly 1 million minutes of video estimated to cross the internet every single second by 2018, and the ever-growing importance and scope of big data, Marea has a new open design, with the future firmly in mind.

Unmatched in its capabilities, Marea can evolve with technology, ensuring the highest level of performance for users now and well into the future, as the global population of internet users grows. Benefits of this open design include easier upgrades, fast growth in bandwidth rates, and lowered costs.

Rafael Arranz, chief operating officer for Telxius, states that, “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.”

For Microsoft, the cable will help ensure that customer demand is continued to be met by providing reliable, high-speed connections for its multitude of cloud services, including Bing, Azure, Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live, and more.

As the world continues to move towards a future based on cloud computing, Microsoft is committed to building out the unprecedented level of global infrastructure required to support ever faster and even more resilient connections to its cloud services.

This robust, global infrastructure will enable customers to more quickly and reliably store, manage, transmit and access their data in the Microsoft Cloud, contributing to Microsoft’s commitment to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, please visit news.microsoft.com/marea/