Microsoft and Facebook connect, Spain to the world of superfast data with a new fibre optic transatlantic cable connecting Spain to America

Microsoft and Facebook are laying a massive fibre-optic cable across the Atlantic.

Named the MAREA project (Spanish for “tide”) this giant underwater cable will stretch from Virginia to Bilbao, Spain, sending digital data across 6,600 kilometers of ocean. Providing up to 160 terabits per second of bandwidth, approximately 16 million times the bandwidth of your home Internet connection.

Allowing the two cyber tech giants, to underpin their traditional online services more efficiently and move enormous amounts of information between their many computer data centers and network hubs.  

The partnership that is in charge of the MAREA project has had to secure licenses from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US, and from the Environment Ministry in Spain. The operating license is for 25 years.

The concession that was awarded to Telxius, a unit of Telefónica that will operate and manage the cable, concerns 27,861 square meters of public domain spread over land and sea. The telecoms infrastructure firm will pay the Spanish state a fee for occupying that space, at a rate of €1,239 per square meter and year, for a total of around €1million throughout the concession period.

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

The project expands the increasingly large computer networks now being built by the giants of the Internet as they assume a role traditionally played by telecom companies.

Google has invested in two undersea cables that stretch from the West Coast of the United States to Japan, another that connects the US and Brazil, and a network of cables that connect various parts of Asia.

Rather than just leasing bandwidth on undersea cables and terrestrial connections operated by telecoms, the likes of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are building their own networking infrastructure both on land and across the seas.

The fact that these Internet giants are laying their own cables at their own expense shows just how much data these giants must move. Consider the services they run: Google offers its eponymous search engine, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps, and so much more.

Microsoft offers Bing, Office365, and its Azure cloud services. Facebook has its social network along with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The data moved by just a few online giants now dwarfs that of most others, so much so that, according to telecommunications research firm Telegeography, more than two-thirds of the digital data moving across the Atlantic is traveling on private networks.

With so much data flowing through their systems, these companies are scrambling to build new infrastructure. In addition to making its own undersea cable, Facebook is buying up what’s called “dark fiber” available terrestrial cable, so that it can control how its data moves from place to place and run it more efficiently.