Why it matters: Facebook has long been looking for ways to increase the availability and quality of internet access around the world. Years ago, the social media giant even developed a massive, solar-powered plane that could beam high-speed internet to underserved areas. That project was killed off in 2018, but Facebook is pursuing a new idea now: a giant, undersea fiber-optic cable that will stretch between Europe and the US.
The goal of this initiative is to drastically improve data transfer speeds between the two regions. The cable will be composed of 24 fiber pairs, with the ability to transmit a "half Petabit per second." If the cable's construction is successful, that figure will represent the fastest data transfer speeds for any long-distance, "repeatered optical subsea cable system" of its kind.
Facebook won't be constructing this cable itself -- it lacks the expertise and infrastructure to do so. Instead, it has chosen to contract the work out to NEC (formerly known as the Nippon Electronic Company), a multinational Japanese corporation that specializes in this sort of technology. Indeed, the corporate behemoth claims it has built more than 300,000 km of fiber-optic cable to date, "spanning the earth nearly 8 times."
Facebook itself has said that the cable will provide "200X more internet capacity" than other transatlantic cables built throughout the 2000s, but of course, we'll need to wait and see whether or not that will prove accurate.
It is not clear how long the NEC's latest project will take to complete. We'll be reaching out to the corporation to see if its PR team is willing to give us an estimate, and we will update this article if we hear back.
At any rate, Facebook's goal here is admirable, though it certainly hasn't given the world any reason to believe its intentions are purely altruistic -- especially in light of the whistleblower controversy it has found itself embroiled in as of late.