Undersea cables are responsible for moving data between countries and continents at high speeds, making everything from photo sharing to financial transactions possible. These cables use fiber optics to move data at high speeds to land, where the data is then conveyed via fiber optics to homes and businesses. Yet, despite the billions of people relying on the data moved by undersea cables, there are only about 380 of them worldwide as of 2019, according to CNN estimates, though they span more than 745,000 miles--or more than three times the distance to the moon. Given the sheer scope of undersea cables, which often span entire oceans, The New York Times estimates an individual undersea cable project can cost up to $350 million. That is why these cables have historically been laid by global telecommunications firms with the deep pockets and technical expertise necessary to undertake these projects.
Google says the fiber optic cable it's building across the Atlantic Ocean will be the fastest of its kind. When the cable goes live next year, the company estimates it will transmit around 250 terabits per second, fast enough to zap all the contents of the Library of Congress from Virginia to France three times every second. That's about 56 percent faster than Facebook and Microsoft's Marea cable, which can transmit about 160 terabits per second between Virginia and Spain. Fiber-optic networks work by sending light over thin strands of glass. Fiber-optic cables, which are about the diameter of a garden hose, enclose multiple pairs of these fibers.
The route of a proposed undersea cable being financed by Microsoft and Facebook. The cable will run between Virginia Beach, Va. and Bilbao, Spain. SAN FRANCISCO -- A 4,000 mile undersea cable deal announced Thursday by Microsoft and Facebook is just the latest of a dozen high capacity trans-oceanic cables being built by tech companies to deal with their insatiable demand for bandwidth. The two companies plan to build a cable that will run from Virginia Beach, Va. to a data hub in Bilbao, Spain. The cable will join a cat's cradle of cables that criss-cross the ocean floor, an increasing number of which are owned or funded by large tech companies.
WASHINGTON – Russian ships are skulking around underwater communications cables, causing the U.S. and its allies to worry the Kremlin might be taking information warfare to new depths. Is Moscow interested in cutting or tapping the cables? Does it want the West to worry it might? Is there a more innocent explanation? But whatever Moscow's intentions, U.S. and Western officials are increasingly troubled by their rival's interest in the 400 fiber-optic cables that carry most of world's calls, emails and texts, as well as $10 trillion worth of daily financial transactions.
Facebook and Microsoft are laying a massive cable across the middle of the Atlantic. Dubbed MAREA--Spanish for "tide"--this giant underwater cable will stretch from Virginia to Bilbao, Spain, shuttling digital data across 6,600 kilometers of ocean. Providing up to 160 terabits per second of bandwidth--about 16 million times the bandwidth of your home Internet connection--it will allow the two tech titans to more efficiently move enormous amounts of information between the many computer data centers and network hubs that underpin their popular online services. "If you look at the cable systems across the Atlantic, a majority land in the Northeast somewhere," says Najam Ahmad, Facebook's vice president of network engineering. "This gives us so many more options."