Massachusetts-based Seaborn Networks and France's Alcatel-Lucent have started construction of the Seabras-1 submarine fiber-optic-cable system, which, when completed in 2016, will be the first such telecommunications link that directly connects the U.S. and Brazil, according to the joint venture.

In a Sept. 9 announcement, the companies said the six-fiber pair system will extend 10,700 kilometers, between New York City and São Paolo, and include a 350-km side link to the Brazilian coastal city of Fortaleza.

Existing underwater cable links between the two countries rely on intermediary landing points in Bermuda and the Caribbean islands, according to one technology publication.

The new link's initial design capacity will be up to 60 terabits per second.

The two firms are collaborating on system development, design, project management and commissioning under a turnkey contract; they have worked together on previous undersea cable projects, said Larry Schwartz, Seaborn Networks’ CEO.

The 100-gigabit-per-second system "will deliver new capacity on the primary route for the majority of internet, data and voice traffic between South America and the rest of the world," the firms said in 2012, when they signed a construction partnership agreement. The connection will be the longest 100-gigabit transoceanic link, to date, the firms added.

The firms also announced, on Sept. 5, that Microsoft has agreed to buy capacity in the system. Observers say it will boost the company's cloud-based service in Brazil and Latin America.

“Seabras-1 is an important catalyst for the continued expansion of affordable broadband penetration in Brazil and the region,” said Philippe Dumont, president of Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks. “The system will support a wide variety of global communication services for consumers and businesses throughout South America.”

Spokespersons for the firms would not disclose the project's cost and said no other firms are involved in engineering or construction.

But according to one industry-sector report, Google and a consortium of Asian technology firms are spending $300 million to build the FASTER undersea fiber-optic-cable system, between the U.S. and Japan.

Reuters earlier this year reported on industry speculation that the February agreement between Brazil and the European Union to build a $185-million undersea link from Lisbon, Portugal, to Fortaleza might have been prompted by suspicions the U.S. government could tap the FASTER cable to intercept data flows just as the National Security Agency engaged in surveillance of foreign governments. The Lisbon-to-Fortaleza cable would bypass the U.S. for the first time in routing internet traffic.

Under current plans, a joint venture between Brazilian telecom firm Telebras and Spain's IslaLink Submarine Cables would lay the communications link.