Microsoft and Facebook have announced plans to build "MAREA", a huge subsea cable connecting North America and Europe to improve the companies online services infrastructure. Utilizing eight fiber pairs, the cable's initial capacity is estimated to be 160 terabits per second, which will make it the highest capacity cable crossing the Atlantic.

Running from Virginia Beach, Virgina to Bilbao, Spain, MAREA (which is Spanish for "tide"), it will be the first cable to connect the US to southern Europe, over a distance of 6,600 km (4,100 miles). From Blibao, it will connect to network hubs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with the goal of improving speed and reliability.

For Microsoft this means improvements for users of its cloud services, such as Bing, Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Azure, while for Facebook it means improvements for users of its eponymous social network.

"In order 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 of Global Network Acquisition at Microsoft. "This marks an important new step in building the next generation infrastructure of the internet."

The system is designed to be interoperable with a variety of networking equipment, with an open design which should lower costs and make equipment upgrades easier for customers as optical technology improves.

Telxius, the telecommunications infrastructure division of Spanish telecoms company Telefonica, will be in charge of operating and selling capacity of the cable.

Construction on MAREA is due to begin in August this year, and expected to be completed in October 2017.

Source: Microsoft