back to article Microsoft and Facebook's transatlantic cable completed

Construction of Microsoft and Facebook's jointly-funded submarine cable has ended. The two companies, along with construction and operation partner Telxius, revealed the project in May 2016 and promised a 160 terabit per second link across a 6,600 km route linking Virginia Beach, USA, and Bilbao, Spain. Cable-laying work …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We've all been there.

    "Cable-laying work started five months ago..."

    We all have difficult days in that department, but five months would certainly be a stretch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We've all been there.

      We all have difficult days in that department, but five months would certainly be a stretch.

      A mix of iron tablets, codeine, and an egg-heavy diet may be to blame.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: We've all been there.

        We all have difficult days in that department, but five months would certainly be a stretch.

        A mix of iron tablets, codeine, and an egg-heavy diet may be to blame.

        If only you'd eaten more fibre

        1. Les Matthew

          Re: We've all been there.

          I've seen the light.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We've all been there.

      I agree, can you imagine the splash back from that?

    3. Mephistro Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: We've all been there.

      "We all have difficult days in that department, but five months would certainly be a stretch."

      The other day I suffered this issue. Subjectively speaking, it seemed to last more than five months!

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    It will be interesting to see

    It will be interesting to see just how much transatlantic capacity will bypass UK in the coming years.

    This is the first fat fiber to do so in its entirety. While there are a couple that go around the UK to the north of it and land Denmark as well as a couple going France but they are pretty old (and full) - from the dot bomb age. They also have UK involvement (the protection circuits go via the UK).

    Leaving politics aside, this is good for the Internet resilience. All it takes to massively cripple it today is one plough towed right outside UK territorial waters around Cornwall.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: It will be interesting to see

      And avoids those lovely people at GCHQ and their Five Eyes friends?

      1. theModge

        Re: It will be interesting to see

        their Five Eyes friends

        It does leave from the US of A. So ironically GCHQ can't spy on American citizens for them, but the NSA can still help our government out by spying on us.

        Politics is a silly game.

    2. colinb

      Re: It will be interesting to see

      Indeed, in the future why route to an island that then has to route undersea again for Europe.

      Interesting that Africa seems to be overdue US connections given the growing internet usage there. https://www.submarinecablemap.com

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: A towed Plough???

      All it takes to massively cripple it today is one plough towed right outside UK territorial waters around Cornwall.

      I can just imagine a farmer on his tractor and ploughing the seabed off of Sennen Cove.

      Don't you mean a "dragged Anchor"?

      1. theModge

        Re: A towed Plough???

        Sennen Cove.

        Beware militant surfers? Sea Lions can be dangerous I guess. I seem to recall the first transatlantic cable landed in Sennen Cove did it not?

        Related geeky interest, whilst in that neck of the woods check out the telegraph museum: http://telegraphmuseum.org/

        Interesting enough for a visit even on a dry day!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A towed Plough???

        @ Steve Davies 3 ........ "I can just imagine a farmer on his tractor and ploughing the seabed off of Sennen Cove"

        Well the sea bed off Sennen Cove and Porthcurno too if you want to be really effective. Alternatively if you want a more suitable place for a farmer on a tractor you could just go inland a bit to Skewjack farm and plough everything up there ..... but if you do, expect GCHQ to be miffed. They wont like you making holes around their interception station.

      3. aqk
        Alert

        Re: A towed Plough. A dragged anchor.

        Pretty much the same thing, if you're one of those little coral creatures.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A towed Plough. A dragged anchor.

          Probably meant one of these (other bands are available).

          https://www.smd.co.uk/product-category/ploughs/

    4. streaky

      Re: It will be interesting to see

      It will be interesting to see just how much transatlantic capacity will bypass UK in the coming years.

      I see you're trying to make some sort of point. Cable is only cost-effective because of the Bilbao-UK link but hey. Real reason it's there because people are starting to realise that running everything through New York is a flaky plan; most of us knew it about 2 decades ago, only thing that surprises me it took so long to bring online.

      What's the good of bypassing the UK when the NSA is a thing. "Avoids five eyes" - find grip. Know what else is in Virginia? The Pentagon, the CIA HQ who knows how many NSA sites. Avoids five eyes; Virginia is five eyes central.

  3. Paul Herber Silver badge

    I'll get my Côte

    ' including our newest Azure regions coming to France, and beyond.

    Côte d'Azure?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: I'll get my Côte

      If you're coming from Spain, "beyond France" includes Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy with direct borders, and The Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia at one remove.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      To France, and Beyond

      Home of La Petite Mort

      ...allez on y va

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: I'll get my Côte

      But has someone told MS and Facebook that Bilbao is not in France?

  4. teknopaul Silver badge

    makes you sick

    that's the literal translation of "marea", I wonder if that was deliberate.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: makes you sick

      Marea means "tide" - at least in my language...

  5. Craigie

    Facbook and ads, the two things I care least about being served quickly. FB I don't use. Ads I block.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      What exactly is the point of that comment?

      Personally, I don't use ladies toilets but that doesn't mean that I don't think they should be built.

      Just think of the vast number of 'other people' who will use it, not just yourself.

  6. Lee D Silver badge

    Question:

    If you lay a transatlantic cable, and then over the intervening years ten other people come and do the same, it's virtually inevitable that they will cross over.

    When they do, and there's a problem, requiring someone to get a big boat and go out and pick up your cable, how do they avoid tampering with all the others? Surely they must end up dragging those up too, and then how do you fix and relay your own tangled cable and (if you break it) theirs without repeating the situation?

    I realise that most of the time there's enough slack to pick the cable up anyway (or you wouldn't be able to repair) but surely it must be an issue?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You get similar issues when you've parked your boat up in a harbour , and some beer bellied , medallion wearing gin-palace owner turns up late , drops anchor and then backs into a berth thats too small trapping everyone else's anchor chains.

      #FirstWorldProblems

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Not being nautically-minded myself, I hadn't thought of conjoined anchors.

        But it just seems to me that such cables would be very vulnerable in such instances. I know the ships can splice and repair, but it just seems a problem that can only get worse, and even when it comes to "remove that 50-year-old obsolete cable", you will still have the same problem.

        And what happens in, say, a war, and you can't survery 6000km of cable, and you can claim "Whoops, sorry, we were just repairing OUR cable but happened to take out your continent's fibre in the process". They must be more valuable than oil pipelines nowadays, no?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      but surely it must be an issue?

      I would guess that it is only an issue in relatively shallow water at hub locations where multiple cables come ashore together. Out in the really deep water, I'd expect cable layers plan to avoid other vaguely parallel cables by general routing (given that most have low accuracy position data). That's also what it looks like in the submarine cable map that colinb posted the link to. Obviously there's situations where you have to cross another cable, I think all they can do there is cross their fingers and hope the probability of getting a fault close to the crossing point is probably very low, in the entire 6,000 kms plus of cable.

      If there is, then the cable repair ship has to go trawling for the cable, and hope that they pull up the correct one (its a very inexact science).

    3. Greem

      It's happened before

      In the late 90s I went to a networking conference at which the skipper of a C&W (I think) cable laying ship gave us a very entertaining lecture about the various superlatives, stresses and challenges involved in putting fibres in the ocean.

      Repairing broken cables involved dragging miles of cable to the surface, slicing it into two pieces and looking which side the light came from, then repeating this on the broken side until light was found again, then splicing in a new section.

      He ended with a tale of being tasked to locate and repair a cable near the Canary Islands.This was something like 3 miles under water, so they put down a grapple and towed across where the cable should be. After snagging something, they lifted it and committed the slice... only to find light on both sides.

      Oops. Wrong one.

      They were called rather rapidly with a report of another cable failure, which they graciously fixed before doing the one they were supposed to do.

      Not an exact science as someone else said!

      1. Christian Berger

        Re: It's happened before

        "Repairing broken cables involved dragging miles of cable to the surface, slicing it into two pieces and looking which side the light came from, then repeating this on the broken side until light was found again, then splicing in a new section."

        You'd think they have some sort of management system or at least an OTDR to help them find that place faster. After all, every cut means additional attenuation which means more noise and therefore, in the long run, more problems with more advanced modulation schemes.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They are colour coded like network cable. It's also so they can be aesthetically pleasing to the fish.

    5. aqk
      Big Brother

      Ah the good ol' days before wiring closets!

      And all those mainframe 3270 and peripheral cables under raised floors.

      Just grab yours, and pull as hard as you can. Sooner or later it will be freed up.

  7. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    160 terabit per second

    Now thats speedy!

    I also like how unambiguous it is about wether its bits or bytes. Refreshing.

    When ISPs quote things like "ooh u can get 50 mbs" or mbps or Mb/s Its never clear wether they are indicating bits or bytes , or if they even know they know the difference , I guess the techs do , do the salesdroids? Are they pulling the wool over our eyes by relying on the customer not knowing and quoting the bits implying they are bytes?

    I seem to remember the correct distinction is all in the capitals or something?

    How does one correctly quote bits and bytes?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      My understanding is that Bytes are capitals and bits are lowercase, and that all the multiplications are capitalised, so e.g:

      MB - Mega Bytes

      Tb - Tera bits

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        "My understanding is that Bytes are capitals and bits are lowercase, and that all the multiplications are capitalised"

        Close. All prefixes greater than 1000 use a capital letter. Kilo, hecta and deca use lower case (the latter being the only SI prefix not to use a single letter), while all multiplications smaller than 1 use lower case (although obviously these aren't used much in conjunction with bits and bytes).

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Ah yes, I'd forgotten kilo.

          Thanks.

          1. aqk
            Windows

            Forgotten Kilo? Perfectly understandable.

            Well, it only takes 640 of them. That's ALL you'll ever really need.

        2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          "My understanding is that Bytes are capitals and bits are lowercase"

          "All prefixes greater than 1000 use a capital letter. Kilo, hecta and deca use lower case"

          So a kilobyte should be written: kB ?

        3. Alistair Silver badge
          Windows

          Dammit. Snack time.

          Off the cornerstore for a bag of bits n' bites.

    2. Christian Berger

      Well bits are bits (or Shannon, depending on the context), while 8 bits are an octet, not to be confused with the octothorpe key on your telephone.

    3. Terry Barnes

      In telecoms it's always bits.

      There are several reasons, but one is that you can't be certain that 8 consecutive bits belong together to make a byte, or that the bits will be assembled into bytes at all - the concept of a byte of data transmitted across a system exists at a different layer to the transmission mechanisms of that system.

      In computing 'B' is bytes, 'b' is bits.

      1. Dave Harris
        Alert

        Not forgetting...

        .. in West Africa, you have two cables landing at Contonou, on the Bight of Benin

        "Beware, beware the Bight of Benin,

        There's one comes out, for forty go in"

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It says in the sales brochure,

      Up to 160 terabit per second.

      They'll be lucky if they get 20 on a good day while everyone's at work.

  8. Nial

    "because while it contains just eight fibre pairs"

    You'd think if they're going to the hassle of laying a transatlantic cable they would put a few more pairs down? >:-0

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      I thought that, but I suppose 6000km of cable costs a fair few quid.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Undersea cable costs a bit

        But neither MS or FB are short of a few $$$ and this cable is all tax deductable (not that either of them pay tax on their profits outside the USA in the first place).

        Eight fibre pairs is very small but this article seems to explain why

        http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-undersea-cables-that-power-your-internet-and-why-theyre-at-a6710581.html

        IMHO, the biggest cost is to hire the cable layer not the cable itself.

  9. SVV Silver badge

    Great News

    Twitter should sign up for it too - then if all their traffic as well as that for MS and FB is going via this cable, a vast amount of bandwidth will be freed up on the existing cables due to the enormous amounts of idiocy that will go via the new cable instead.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Great News

      How many cat videos per second will fit down the inner-tube?

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: Great News

        "How many cat videos per second will fit down the inner-tube?"

        I've just checked The Register Standard units page and there doesn't appear to be a measurement unit for data transfer. Which is surprising! I think CV/Ps should be considered for entry. You'd need the average length of a cat video though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great News

      Twitter should sign up for it too - then if all their traffic as well as that for MS and FB is going via this cable

      ...then we could sinkhole all of it in one go.

    3. aqk
      Facepalm

      Re: Great News twitter also?

      Sorry, but twitter can't transmit packets more than 140 bytes.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Seems a very long way...

    To pipe unwanted waste material. But perhaps more environmentally friendly than dumping it in the sea.

  11. Kev99

    160Tbps cable going 6,000 miles and I can't get more than 3Mbps because my local ISP says it's not possible. What am I missing?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      The budgetary availability of a combined MS and FB

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