$1.5 billion: The cost of cutting London-Tokyo latency by 60ms


$1.5 billion: The cost of cutting London-Tokyo latency by 60ms

    By Sebastian Anthony on March 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Arctic Link submarine cable

Starting this summer, a convoy of ice breakers and specially-adapted polar
ice-rated cable laying ships will begin to lay the first ever trans-Arctic
Ocean submarine fiber optic cables. Two of these cables, called Artic Fibre
and Arctic Link, will cross the Northwest Passage which runs through the
Canadian Arctic Archipelago. A third cable, the Russian Optical Trans-Arctic
Submarine Cable System (ROTACS), will skirt the north coast of Scandinavia
and Russia. All three cables will connect the United Kingdom to Japan, with a
smattering of branches that will provide high-speed internet access to a
handful of Arctic Circle communities. The completed cables are estimated to
cost between $600 million and $1.5 billion each.

All three cables are being laid for the same reasons: Redundancy and speed.
As it stands, it takes roughly 230 milliseconds for a packet to go from
London to Tokyo; the new cables will reduce this by 30% to 170ms. This
speed-up will be gained by virtue of a much shorter run: Currently, packets
from the UK to Japan either have to traverse Europe, the Middle East, and the
Indian Ocean, or the Atlantic, US, and Pacific, both routes racking up around
15,000 miles in the process. It’s only 10,000 miles (16,000km) across the
Arctic Ocean, and you don’t have to mess around with any land crossings,

Russian Optical Trans-Arctic Submarine Cable System (ROTACS) between UK and
JapanThe massive drop in latency is expected to supercharge algorithmic stock
market trading, where a difference of a few milliseconds can gain (or lose)
millions of dollars. It is for this reason that a new cable is currently
being laid between the UK and US — it will cost $300 million and shave “just”
six milliseconds off the fastest link currently available. The lower latency
will also be a boon to other technologies that hinge heavily on the internet,
such as telemedicine (and teleconferencing) and education. Telephone calls
and live news coverage would also enjoy the significantly lower latency. Each
of the fiber optic cables will have a capacity in the terabits-per-second
range, which will probably come in handy too.

Beyond the stock markets, though, the main advantage of the three new cables
is added redundancy. Currently, almost every cable that lands in Asia goes
through a choke point in the Middle East or the Luzon Strait between the
Philippine and South China seas. If a ship were to drag an anchor across the
wrong patch of seabed, billions of people could wake up to find themselves
either completely disconnected from the internet or surfing with dial-up-like
speeds. The three new cables will all come down from the north of Japan,
through the relatively-empty Bering Sea — and the Arctic Ocean, where each of
the cables will run for more than 5,000 miles, is one of the least-trafficked
parts of the world. That said, the cables will still have to be laid hundreds
of meters below the surface to avoid the tails of roving icebergs.

The ROTACS cable path

Each cable will be laid by a pair of ships: an ice breaker that leads the
way, and a cable ship. Until now it has been impossible to lay cables in the
Arctic Ocean, but the retreat of the Arctic sea ice means that the Northwest
Passage is now generally ice-free from August to October; a big enough window
that cable can be laid fairly safely. Existing cable ships (and there aren’t
many of them) are all outfitted for balmier climes, so all three cables will
require the use of a polar ice-rated ship that has been retrofitted to carry
cable-laying gear.

Read more about the secret world of submarine cables.

For more information on the Russian Optical Trans-Arctic Submarine Cable
System (ROTACS), check out the Polarnet Project (machine translated).

The Arctic Fibre and Arctic Link websites have information on the North
American cables.

[Image credit: New Scientist]

Yeah this is super cool!

I hope ISPs will peer well once cable is ready!

Anurag Bhatia

If they could armor the cable sufficiently perhaps they could drill the
straigh line path through the Earth's crust (mantle and outer core) and do
London-Tokyo in less than 10,000km.


That is why there's this neutrinos project
It's not faster than the speed of light though it can shoot through the Earth and no cables cost involved

So far the speed is 0.1 bit per sec

Can't wait for the neutrino SFPs :slight_smile:


Vitkovsky, Adam (avitkovsky) writes:

Can't wait for the neutrino SFPs :slight_smile:

  You know the shipping cost on a 2 light year thick lead SFP ?

Nooo, we just need Interocitors!



Lower latency is good...

The massive drop in latency is expected to supercharge algorithmic stock
market trading, where a difference of a few milliseconds can gain (or lose)
millions of dollars.

But it should be illegal to run a stock market that volatile. This can't end well.

That's what came to my mind when I first heard about quantum entanglement just to learn that there's really small chance we could ever use it for communication


Notwithstanding how bad an idea high speed trading from the vantage
point of those who don't participate in it, 60ms would place you at a
competitive disadvantage to traders that are collocated at or near the
exchange, such that if you're engaged in an arbitrage activity between
two markets someone can frontrun your front-running.

I'd be quite interested in seeing the MTTR for a sub-ice cable break which
happened in late october.


What about those -- I assume successful -- experiments to fire
neutrinos straight through the earth as a communications medium?

Not sure what the bandwidth of a neutrino stream is.


That is why there's this neutrinos project
It's not faster than the speed of light though it can shoot through the Earth and no cables cost involved

So far the speed is 0.1 bit per sec

I bet for $ 1.5 billion neutrino communication (anywhere on Earth) to
its antipode in about 40 msec one way) could be
developed (i.e., the bit rate improved), and I could see some real
market advantages to anyone who had access to it, even
at 100 kbps type bit rates.

Given that, I wouldn't be too surprised to see some physicists and
networking people quietly being hired away by an
obscure new venture...


The average consumer gets a 15 minute artificial delay in trading, why not implement for all trades...

The physics is not conducive to improving the situation a lot.

There's probably $1.5 billion in the ground already in neutrino
detectors; the total combined detector bit rate is pretty poor. One
experiment looking at neutrinos coming off the Fermilab accelerator
had 473 million accelerator pulses with under 1.1 million detected

Ah... *here's* the Whacky Weekend thread. I was wondering where it was.

-- jra

Note that each pulse was probably millions or even billions of neutrinos, so
the detection rate was even worse than you'd think. I saw a statistic that
every second, 50 trillion neutrinos pass through your body. And the number
that will interact is well into the single digits.

You guys joke but here is n little article from last week on the current state of Neutrino communications:


"The neutrinos themselves are created by smashing bunches of protons into a target made of graphite. They are detected roughly 1km away by researchers [..] . By modulating the pulses of protons the group was able to send a message in binary that, when translated, read “neutrino”. "

Virtually any consumer can get true real-time trading data if they're willing
to pay some relatively modest fees for that access -- Last I knew, the most
expensive 'real-time' fee charged by any exchange was under $200/mo. For
everything traded on that exchange. For anybody doing short-term, 'tactical',
trading, that is a "petty cash" expense.

Imposing the 15-minute delay on 'everybody', would simply give the 'floor
traders' the -exclusive' edge on those trading strategies.

From the abstract: "The link achieved a decoded data rate of 0.1

bits/sec with a bit error rate of 1% over a distance of 1.035 km,
including 240 m of earth."

For practical communications, at longer distances, you probably lose
beam intensity as a 1/R^2 function (the neutrino beam isn't precisely
collimated), so 1,000 km away it will be 1 millionth as strong, or
0.0000001 baud, 1 bit per 115.74 days. At 2,000 km it would be less
than 1 bit per year.

Sure you want to do this? :sunglasses: