Technology

Super-fast data cable now links America and Europe

Work begins on the Spanish side to install the joint Facebook, Microsoft and Telefónica project

Fifteen thousand high-definition DVDs per second. One hundred thousand messages per second. And all of this through a pipe that measures little more than 10 centimeters across. This underwater super-cable, which will count on an initial capacity of 160 terabits per second – a figure that will grow as the technology becomes available – is known as Marea. And this morning work began to connect it to the town of Sopelana, in the Bay of Biscay, just 18 kilometers from the Basque Country city of Bilbao.

A workman checks that the cable is positioned correctly.
A workman checks that the cable is positioned correctly.FERNANDO DOMINGO-ALDAMA

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The boat that has traveled the 6,600 kilometers that separate the Basque coast from Virginia Beach, in the United States, began the last part of its journey this week, one that will see the roll-out of the latest technology in data distribution, and which has been created thanks to a joint project from Facebook and Microsoft, and which will be managed by Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica through its affiliate Telxius. The project is due to be finished in a couple of months.

According to Facebook, the cable will mean an exponential increase in quality and service for its users

Between the boat and the mooring on land there were plenty of waves this morning at 7.30am – and plenty of surfers trying to make the most of them. The ship was moored around 300 meters off the coast. The head of networking for Facebook, Kevin Salvadori, said he considered the securing of the cable on the Spanish side and its deployment to be “milestone.” He was speaking from a restaurant that looks out onto the Arriatera beach in Sopelana. Below him, on the sand, technicians were working on the guide that was connecting the cable itself from the boat.

Over the course of the day, the cable was due to be definitively hooked up to Spanish soil. For Salvadori, Marea is a strategic project that will help Facebook in its mission to make the world more open and better connected. According to Facebook, the cable will mean an exponential increase in quality and service for its users.

The Marea cable will hook up to the current fiber network in Europe, which links the main data centers of Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and London

Franck Rey, head of Global Network Acquisition at Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations, said: “Our lives depend on networks and we are moving more and more toward cloud-based computing [for remote data storage].” He believes the new cable on the southern route between Spain and the United States – most routes make land in New York or the New Jersey area – will be the “most reliable.”

The Marea cable will hook up to the current fiber network in Europe, which links the main data centers of Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and London. The copper-clad cable will reach depths as low as 4,000 meters under the sea as it crosses the Atlantic. The director of cable operations for Telxius, Rafael Arranz, was overjoyed. “This is not 4,000 DVDs a second [of data capacity], it is 15,000 high-definition DVDs. And that will keep increasing as the technology improves. I have spent 20 years laying cable and I hope I don’t have to wait so long for the next one to arrive in the Basque Country and Spain.”

English version by George Mills.

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