Microsoft and Facebook are building the fastest trans-Atlantic cable yet

Here is some news you don’t read every day: Microsoft and Facebook today announced that they are teaming up to build a subsea cable across the Atlantic that will connect Virginia Beach, Virginia, with Bilbao, Spain.

The companies say the so-called MAREA cable will allow them to “meet the growing customer demand for high speed, reliable connections for cloud and online services for Microsoft, Facebook and their customers.” Construction is scheduled to start in August and the companies expect the process to be complete in October 2017.

Once operational, MAREA will be the highest-capacity subsea cable to cross the Atlantic (at least for the time being) and will feature eight fiber pairs. The cable was designed to handle 160Tbps and will use a different route from other existing cable systems that also connect the U.S. and Europe. The reason for this, Microsoft says, is to ensure “more resilient and reliable connections for our customers in the United States, Europe, and beyond.”


“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, global network acquisition, Microsoft Corp. “This marks an important new step in building the next generation infrastructure of the Internet.”

What’s also different here is that Facebook and Microsoft are leading this effort (together with Telefonica and its Telxius subsidiary, which will operate the cable). Typically, companies like Microsoft and Facebook have joined larger consortiums of technology companies and telecom players to build — or invest in — these cables. Now, however, the two decided to build their own infrastructure instead (and they are using some of the open hardware approach that Facebook has become known for) and plan on selling excess capacity to third parties.

The companies did not share any information about what these efforts will cost.