Facebook and Microsoft Invest in Marena Fiber Cable System


Atlantic Ocean will get one more submarine fiber optic cable that will connect Spain at the European side and the Virginia state of the United States at the North American continent side. The submarine fiber cable project called Marea is built by giant web companies, Facebook and Microsoft in partnership with Telefonica. They have teamed up to build a new fiber optic cable under the Atlantic Ocean to have more control over their data transmission.

The new undersea fiber project spans more than 6,400 kilometers on its way from Virginia to Spain. The cable will have eight strands of optical fibers. The cable system that makes use of Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing enabling high bit rate transmission will carry much of the traffic between the two continents. Sources say, the Marena fiber optic cable system across the Atlantic is the highest capacity link so far connecting the two continents. The Web giants signed partnership with Spanish Internet carrier Telefónica SA to build the cable, which is expected to enter service next year.

The cable, named Marena meaning “Tide” in the Spanish language is the latest in a string of big-budget Internet infrastructure projects Web companies have pursued to gain more control over their data. Microsoft and Facebook have previously invested in other trans-ocean cables, as has Alphabet Inc., which owns Google, and Amazon.com Inc. The new submarine fiber optic cable will help to lower costs, accelerate bandwidth rates and help accommodate the explosion of data use around the world, both for commercial use such as cloud-computing and personal use like sharing photos on social media.

Microsoft officials said they also wanted to build redundancy in its network and invest in an area where cables do not run. Many of the trans-Atlantic cables originate in the New York area and run to Northern Europe. Companies are looking for places away from New York so that in case of any natural or manmade disaster, there is always an alternative route for communication. Communication can not simply rely on one or two routes that originate from the place, laid on the route and terminate at same landing point. Multiple paths are required to ensure redundancy.

The wholesale price of shuttling data across continents has been plunging for the past 15 years, leaving traditional telecom companies scrambling for a way to make a profit. But that fall hasn’t been steep enough for the biggest U.S. tech companies that need to send data for billions of accounts through dozens of data centers around the world. Because the investment costs are high, only the very largest Internet companies have made the plunge. The shift has made the biggest Web companies the driving force behind some of the telecom industry’s most expensive subsea cable projects.

The parties involved in the project declined to provide a cost estimate for the cable. It is estimated by experts in submarine fiber projects that a trans-Atlantic cable usually require more than $200 million to build, though expenses vary widely depending on the project. The companies must also seek regulators’ approval for lines that domestic security agencies consider part of their countries’ critical infrastructure.

The biggest Web companies mostly have focused their investments on heavily trafficked Internet corridors that tie together cities in Europe, the Americas and East Asia, where they own data centers. Projects like Google Fiber and Facebook’s wireless broadband programs, aimed at making the Internet more accessible to consumers, are separately managed.

Google was an early mover when it teamed up with partners to build a 6,200-mile line across the Pacific Ocean, a project completed in 2010. It is in the process of finishing another trans-Pacific cable and an Atlantic line from the U.S. to Brazil.

Marea is Microsoft’s third public investment in a trans-Atlantic cable. It has led the U.S. investment in the New Cross Pacific Cable to China. Amazon.com Inc. recently joined the club with an investment in the Hawaiki cable from Oregon and Hawaii to Australia and New Zealand.

Telefónica’s new infrastructure company, Telxius, will manage the high-speed link once it is finished, though its design still gives Facebook and Microsoft control over their data. The setup allows each company to pass information over their own dedicated fiber optic lines and to upgrade the equipment at each end when new hardware becomes available.

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