Facebook is making preparations for a record-breaking new undersea internet cable that will connect the US and Europe across the Atlantic.
The company has contracted Japanese firm NEC Corporation to build the cable, which will comprise 24 fiber pairs and deliver a capacity of 500 Tbps, roughly double the current record (held by Google’s Dunant cable).
Although it is unclear precisely where the new cable will dock and when it will be completed, NEC says it will deliver much-needed additional capacity along a route expected to witness a massive uptick in traffic over the next decade or so.
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Undersea internet cables
Although submarine internet cables have been around since the late 1980s, the technology has come a long way since then. For context, the first ever underwater fiber optic cable (TAT-8) had just two operational fiber pairs and a maximum capacity of just 280Mb per second.
The total number of submarine cables shot up during a period of rapid growth in the 2000s, followed by an interval during which relatively little new cable was laid, but available capacity was slowly exhausted. Now, however, a sharp rise in demand for web-based services and the volume of connected devices is propelling a new wave of cable initiatives.
“Subsea cables connect continents and are the backbone of the global internet,” explained Facebook. “Our first-ever transatlantic subsea cable system will provide 200x more internet capacity than the transatlantic cables of the 2000s.”
The new cable is one of many operated by Facebook and other members of the infamous FAANG collective. Last month, for example, Facebook announced an extension (opens in new tab) to its 2Africa cable, which will make it the longest ever deployed. And in August, the company revealed it would collaborate with Google on a new cable system designed to boost network capacity and resilience in APAC.
Although it will be a while before anyone is able to benefit from the additional capacity and redundancy afforded by these cables, which take multiple years to build and lay, the projects will ensure internet giants can continue to provide uninterrupted service as a larger number of internet users spend more and more time online.
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