submarine cable

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Facebook and Microsoft are partnering together to build a submarine cable across the Atlantic Ocean. A partnership between two of the biggest corporations in the world usually leads to very big ventures. So it proved with the Facebook – Microsoft partnership. The submarine cable is going to be the highest capacity cable to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean. The cable called MAREA, the Spanish word for ‘tide’  would start from the US coast of Northern Virginia to the coast of Bilbao in Spain.

submarine cable

The submarine cable would be 6600 km long and is capable of of transmitting 160 terrbits per second of bandwidth. Communications giant Telefonica-owned Telxius (a world leader in designing and building of infrastructure) would be the contractor to handle this massive project. The construction of the project is expected to begin in August this year and end just over a year later in October 2017. Telxius would also manage and expand the networks hub to other regions in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Frank Rey, a director in Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure and Operations, was saddled with the task of announcing this auspicious project. Giving reasons why the two companies felt there was an overriding imperative for the project, he said,

We’re seeing an ever-increasing customer demand for high speed, reliable connections for Microsoft cloud services, including Bing, Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Azure. As the world continues to move towards 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. This robust, global infrastructure will enable customers to more quickly and reliably store, manage, transmit and access their data in the Microsoft Cloud.”

High sounding words from Frank Rey. But cutting through all the lofty ideals in that post, it all comes down to this: the need for a submarine cable by the two giants is to help them move data faster and ultimately cheaper. Facebook and Microsoft have vast networks of data centers scattered around the world. To stay on the cutting edge of their business, they really need something like this to move data more efficiently. Take their cloud services for instance. The output of 1.65 billion users being hosted by Facebook cloud computing services is no child’s play. While for Microsoft, it has to host online services like Azure, Bing, Xbox Live and Office 365. These are massive operations that would continue to grow bigger. Making the need for faster means of transmitting data a necessity.

submarine cableBuilding submarine cables is not a new thing though. Companies have being doing it for a while now. Google already have two submarine cables to handle it’s huge data requirements. Even in Nigeria, Globacom’s submarine cable, Glo 1,used to be the rave at a point. All the talk about cheap and fast Internet with the arrival of Glo 1 in 2009 just fizzled out after a few years. In the first place, we did not get the superfast internet. And secondly, what we eventually got wasn’t even cheap. Main One was another submarine cable that was launched in Nigeria in 2010. The 14,000 km submarine cable connected Portugal, Accra, Lagos and South Africa. Just like Globacom’s, Main One submarine cable came with a lot of promises about how our internet experience would change. Six years down the down, people hardly talk about Main One again. The promises were just hype in the final analysis.

As for the Marea project, Microsoft and Facebook did not reveal how much it would cost them to build the submarine cable. It doesn’t matter though, since it is private money. What matters to the public is if by the end of next year, when it is due to be completed, there would be notable differences in the quality of services provided by Facebook and Microsoft.


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