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Whoa: Facebook, Microsoft to build an internet cable across the Atlantic Ocean

Nautical statue figure facing the Atlantic Ocean
Stuart Forster | Robert Harding | Getty Images
Nautical statue figure facing the Atlantic Ocean

Tech giants Microsoft and Facebook are investing big in high-speed internet access by building a subsea cable connecting Virginia and Spain.

The MAREA cable will be the highest-capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic, and will lead to faster growth in internet bandwidth rates, the companies said. MAREA will run farther south than existing cables, expanding coverage, and works with a variety of equipment to make it cheaper and easier to upgrade.

Microsoft has increasingly shifted its offerings, like Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live and the Microsoft Azure, to the cloud. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has committed to expanding web access with initiatives like internet.org.

Between them, they said, it made sense to create a "vendor-agnostic" partnership to create the cable.

The MAREA collaboration comes on the tail of FASTER, a $300 million cable built by Alphabet, in partnership with five Asian telecom companies. FASTER is expected to come online sometime this year, according to Reuters' initial reports.

MAREA will begin construction in August and is expected to be completed in October 2017, according to the companies. It will be operated and managed by Telxius, Telefonica's new telecommunications infrastructure company, which hopes to "capture market opportunities" in Western Europe and new emerging routes in Northern Africa as part of the deal.

We want to do more of these projects in this manner — allowing us to move fast with more collaboration," Najam Ahmad, vice president of network engineering at Facebook, said in a statement. "We think this is how most subsea cable systems will be built in the future."

— Reuters contributed to this report.