Packet transmission times between London and Tokyo can expect to see a tiny but significant reduction over the coming years as submarine fibre optic cables are gradually installed through and around the Arctic.
Three companies have so far revealed plans to take advantage of the thinning ice around the northern regions of the planet, with New Scientist reporting that construction will begin in mid-August.
Canada-based Arctic Fibre will be laying a 15,600km connection through the North-West Passage. The project’s president, Doug Cunningham, claims that latency between the UK and Japan be cut from 230ms to 168ms, a seemingly small reduction, but one which New Scientist says will be “a boon for high-frequency traders who will gain crucial milliseconds on each automated trade”. Similar low-latency benefits are expected from trans-Atlantic cables announced last year and due for completion mid-2012.
Cunningham said to the Toronto Star that a third of the CAD$640 million (£408m) project would be financed in the Canada, and hoped that the remainder would be covered by telcos in Asia, US and Europe.
The third company planning a North-West Passage cabling is the Alaskan Arctic Link, which will supposedly begin construction in 2014.
Though construction will be difficult and time-consuming due to the brief windows in which icebreakering ships work, a key benefit of putting fibre optic cables through the Arctic is that the region is not a ‘choke point’ for anchors and high traffic, thereby negating the most typical sources of potential disruptions.
Icebergs, which can sometimes reach depths of 160m, represent a similar danger to such projects, though Arctic Fibre has already revealed that it will place its fibre under the sea bed in areas where icebergs are most common.
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