Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) have announced on Thursday a new plan to built a subsea cable across the Atlantic. It comes as an attempt from the two giants to meet the growing demand for high-speed connections across the world.

The cable, named ‘MAREA’ will be the highest-capacity subsea cable ever built in the Atlantic. The cable will be 6.600 kilometers long with an initially estimated design capacity of 160Tbps per second, according to a statement from Microsoft.

MAREA aims to be the first to connect the United States to southern Europe
MAREA aims to be the first to connect the United States to southern Europe, from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain and then beyond to network hubs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Image Credit: Komo News

According to Microsoft, the company is seeing an increased customer demand for high-speed, reliable connections for Microsoft services, which includes Bing, Office 365, Skype, Xbox live and Microsoft Azure. The tech-giant assured to be committed to building out the unprecedented level of global infrastructure required to support ever faster and more resilient connections to their cloud services.

“To better serve our customers and provide the type of reliable and low-latency connectivity they deserve, we are continuing to invest in new and innovative ways to continuously upgrade both the Microsoft Cloud and the global Internet infrastructure,” said Frank Rey, director, global network acquisition, Microsoft Corp. “This marks an important new step in building the next-generation infrastructure of the Internet,” he added in the statement.

The project’s development is set to start in August 2016 with completion expected in October 2017. The partnership is working as well with Telxius, a Telefonica’s telecommunications infrastructure company, which will be operating MAREA’s system and sell capacity.

Why Virginia?

MAREA’s location is a perfect fit for Microsoft and Facebook due to it entirely covers their needs. Most of the undersea cables they use that connect the U.S. with Europe do not come from Virginia, and the data itself goes through cables anchored in the New York area.

The location aims to speed up the data transfer due to its proximity with the companies’ servers. MAREA’s site is likely to provide a lower latency by itself, which is the time it takes for data to flow from data centers to its ultimate destination. Other companies are too interested in building cables for Virginia, although MAREA will be the first.

Not the only ones interested

Although this is the largest project to built a subsea cable, it is not the first one to take place by an internet giant. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has invested in the last years in two undersea cables that go from the U.S. West Coast to Japan and Brazil. Besides, the search engine company has invested as well in a network of cables that connect various parts of Asia, as reported by Wired.

Google has caught up Facebook and Microsoft on their latest project in order to get ahead the competition
As one of the biggest companies worldwide, Google has caught up Facebook and Microsoft on their latest project to get ahead the competition. Image Credit: Photo/GettyImages

The significant investment from those internet companies highlights how much data they are transferring and how much they plan to in a near future. In fact, more than two-thirds of the digital data moving across the Atlantic is traveling on private networks, some operated by companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, according to telecommunications research firm Telegeography.

It makes sense considering how many services this company provides. Google offers Google as a search engine and many other services such as Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Maps. Microsoft mostly its growing cloud service among others and Facebook the social website with other services like its messenger, Whatsapp, and Instagram.

Microsoft has even other plans ongoing besides MAREA. Just two years ago the Redmond-based company announced deals with Hibernia and Aqua Comms to built cables to connect its data center infrastructure in the U.S. to Ireland and on to the United Kingdom. Also, the company also invested in a physical landing station also in the U.S. to Asia, according to a statement from Microsoft.

A saturated market

As Facebook and Microsoft appear to have saturated the U.S. market according to some experts, efforts to reach new markets seem to be growing. Just Facebook has more than 1.5 billion people in their social network between the U.S. and Europe. As it was already commented, MAREA will offer a more efficient path not only to Europe but also Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as well.

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

The two companies have put aside the third-party telecommunication companies to built their own out of their pockets. However, they are not taking business from those companies but are taking some potential business, according to Telegeography, a data-driven international telecommunications market research, and analysis.

“This does mean that telecoms are carrying somewhat less of the content provider traffic than they would in the past,” the company stated. “But a lot of this capacity was not even around a few years ago.”

The project is a more grown attempt to make their way, as Facebook and Microsoft were already trying others ways to speed up data transfer either way. Facebook has tried all sorts of ways, from dark fiber on land to solar-powered high-altitude drones.

Source: Microsoft