A subsea cable is to be built as part of a joint venture between Microsoft and Facebook. The first of its kind, the “MAREA,” will connect North America to Europe, utilising 8 fibre pairs and with an estimated capacity of 160Tb per second. Running from Bilbao in Spain, the cable will terminate at Virginia Beach, at a length of around 6600 km. MAREA, which is Spanish for ‘tide,’ will increase connectivity across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Microsoft sees the cable fitting into it’s goal for continuity of speed and reliability globally, especially as cloud services become more important to the company’s strategy. Skype, Xbox Live and Microsoft Azure have been tagged as likely big winners once the cable is complete. For Facebook, as it evolves into a media-centric company, access and reliability in areas that were previously ‘forgiving,’ will be vital. Users attempting to access news and opinion, are far more fickle than those maintaining contact with their friends – and Facebook is acutely aware, that while infrastructure issues aren’t their responsibility directly, the impact of slow speeds and poor uptime on how the platform is used, can be profound.

MAREA is being designed with optical technology in mind, and has an open design to ensure lower costs and simpler upgrades for customers. “To better serve our customers and provide the type of reliability and low latency connectivity they deserve,” says Frank Rae director of global network acquisition at Microsoft. “We are continuing to invest in new, innovative ways to continuously upgrade both the Microsoft Cloud and Global Internet Infrastructure as a whole. MAREA marks an important new step in building the next generation infrastructure of the Internet.”

Construction on the cable will begin late this year and has a forecasted completion date of October 2017.