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Super-fast undersea data cable from Microsoft, Facebook arrives in Spain

The MAREA project, in which Telefónica is also participating, will improve connections between users in the US and Europe

A new undersea data cable being laid out by Microsoft, Facebook and Telefónica to improve connections between users in the US and Europe will reach the Spanish coast on June 12. The ship that is deploying the cable along the bottom of the Atlantic left the coast of Virginia on May 24, and is scheduled to stop in the French city of Calais on June 9 before reaching the Basque town of Sopelana, near Bilbao, three days later.

Facebook y Microsoft
A ship property of TE Connectivity, which is laying out the MAREA cable.

The partnership that is in charge of the so-called 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, said consortium sources.

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.

The Basque municipality of Sopelana was designated as the best landing point for the cable on the European side

According to Microsoft, “MAREA will be the highest-capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic – featuring eight fiber pairs and an initial estimated design capacity of 160Tbps [TeraBits Per Second].” That is 16 million times faster than a standard home internet connection.

The route runs south of other existing transatlantic cables, which typically land in the New York and New Jersey area, according to a blog post by Frank Rey, head of Global Network Acquisition at Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations. “It will also be the first to connect the United States to southern Europe: from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain and then beyond to network hubs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.”

Following months of research and exploration, the Basque municipality of Sopelana, and more specifically Arritera beach, was designated as the best landing point for the MAREA cable on the European side.

The new cable will help cover growing customer demand for high-speed online and cloud computing. “As the world continues to move toward a future based on cloud computing, Microsoft is committed to building out the unprecedented level of global infrastructure required to support ever faster and even more resilient connections to our cloud services,” writes Rey. “This marks an important new step in building the next generation infrastructure of the internet.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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