Microsoft and Facebook have announced a partnership that will mean increased data speed between the entire world. They are building a massive underwater data cable to connect Europe to the United States. The cable has been dubbed "MAREA" and should be ready by October 2017, a pretty gutsy timeline.
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The estimated capacity of the cable is 160 Tbps, which will make it the highest capacity subsea cable that has ever crossed the Atlantic.
It isn't difficult to understand why Microsoft and Facebook would want to have a better system to transmit data. Facebook will likely close in on 2 billion users soon, without counting in the traffic they get from Instagram and Whatsapp. Microsoft gets a fair share of traffic as well, but it is the cloud services like Azure, Office, Bing, Skype, and Xbox Live that really use a ton of bandwidth.
The system won't be exclusive to Microsoft and Facebook. The cable will be managed by a division of the Telefonica telecommunications company Telxius. That company will, in turn, sell off capacity from MAREA to other companies.
The plan is for the cable to stretch from Virginia Beach on the East Coast of the United States all the way to Bilbao, Spain, which wouldn't be the path most people would anticipate.
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Most trans-Atlantic cables start in the New York area. They chose to go with Virginia Beach because there are a lot of huge data centers located there. Additionally, the route is said to have less interference so that there will be a more "resilient and reliable" data connection - which is pretty critical when you think how important Facebook and Microsoft properties are in our daily lives.