Undersea cables are the backbone of the internet. Connecting places like the United States to Europe, or France to India, these submarine fiber optic cables permit the world’s web traffic to flow.
One such cable is called Marea. It runs from Virginia Beach in the U.S. to Balboa, Spain. And recently, a company called Infinera announced that it had broken a record for how much data it could send through this cable in a second. It’s a mind-boggling amount. Below, we break down everything you wanted to know about undersea cables and this experimental accomplishment, by the numbers.
That’s the total number of undersea cables in use right now, according to a company called TeleGeography, which conducts telecom market research. Modern cables use fiber optics and lasers to transmit data. Major cables complete key connections like New Jersey and Praia Grande, Brazil, or Australia to Indonesia to Singapore. Take a look at a beautiful, interactive map here.
The length of the Marea cable, through which the record occurred. Facebook, Microsoft, and a company called Telxius own it. Inside the garden-hose-like cable are eight pairs of optical fibers. Each pair acts like a divided road with traffic going in one direction through one strand and the opposite direction through the other. Microsoft announced its completion in September of 2017.
The entire cable is heavy: this is its total weight. Microsoft says that is the same weight as over 30 blue whales. It goes as deep as more than 17,000 feet.