Arctic, fiber optic cables to link Japan and the UK

This summer, work will begin on a trio of undersea cables linking Japan to the United Kingdom. Two of those lines will make their way through the Canadian Arctic, while the third will follow the northern coast of Russia. Total estimated cost: $600 million to $1.5 billion—each.

ExtremeTech has the goods on the projects, which are expected to cut the packet latency between London and Tokyo from 230 to 170 milliseconds. A drop of 26% might not seem like much considering the potential billions involved, but the move will reportedly pay big dividends for firms engaged in computer-driven stock trading. Although Counter-Strike players will surely still complain about lag, there’s reason for Torrent fans to drool; each cable is estimated to offer bandwidth in the terabits-per-second range.

Improving Internet performance isn’t the only reason new cables are going to be dragged through Arctic waters. The planned continental links will also add redundancy. Undersea cables can be damaged by ship anchors, and there are several examples of severed cables disrupting Internet service in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.

Internet communication between Japan and the UK currently takes place over cables that traverse Europe or cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, cutting through North America along the way. The new routes are shorter, and because they travel through regions covered with ice most of the year, the cables should be safer than if they had been placed in busier shipping lanes.

Comments closed
    • shaurz
    • 8 years ago

    Yay, I will be able to download tentacle porn even faster!

    • Palek
    • 8 years ago

    Geoff / Cyril / Scott, it’s such a waste that we cannot see the front-page picture of each article in the article page itself… Is there a reason why you cannot/do not do this? It would make this article much more interesting, for example, if we could see that picture of the Earth with the proposed cable path as we read along.

    • Rageypoo
    • 8 years ago

    Didn’t we kill Japan?

      • vargis14
      • 8 years ago

      No they are killing themselves,I am still stunned that the country that invented the word tsunami and had the longest written record on tsunamis killing thousands of people over at least a couple thousand years,would build a Nuclear power plant on the coast, without a Huge sea wall and generators perched atop tall structures to keep them safe and sound.
      Still stunned with that stupid design.Way too high/overkill sea walls are much better then We think they will be tall enough sea walls.
      Whoever engineered the backup genneys on the ground should perform the samurai suicide Seppuku act since they clearly dishonored themselves and there country.

        • Vivaldi
        • 8 years ago

        IANANE (nuclear engineer), however, I’m going to (reluctantly) respond to this bait.

        Japan clearly doesn’t have all that much real estate to begin with and very little access to domestic energy supplies. Nuclear power is an absolute no-brainer, and these facilities are a normal part of Japanese lives. Don’t get me started on a rant of how the US needs to pull it’s head out of it’s ass regarding nuclear policy.

        Anyways, there are mandatory safety regulations and very specific engineering guidelines that must be adhered to during selection of a location to build these massive plants. Don’t you think hundreds of scientists and nuclear engineers considered its placement? You clearly don’t understand the brilliant minds that must come together to harness this incredible energy. One such mandate I can imagine, off-hand, is access to abundant water supplies to perform heat dissipation, which alone *could* explain it’s proximity to the ocean and over-all position.

        Regardless, while some subsystems failed and other “stuff” went wrong during the tsunami catastrophe, *nobody* died as a result of the facility’s degraded state, not a single person. There are so many fallbacks and contingency plans engineered *into* the system itself, it would shock most people.

        What you *don’t* do is build a silly “wall” and forget about everything else. That’s absurd. Overall, the response to the disaster should be commended not dishonored. No one died. Can we say the same about the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded? I’m afraid we can’t. Let’s face it, there are people far smarter and more experienced than you, or even I, that plan these structures and the safety precautions that goes into them. Your fantasy perception of Homer Simpson behind the wheel is just that, fantasy.

        If this facility’s ability to withstand a historic earthquake and Noah’s Ark level wall of water doesn’t instill absolute faith in the safety of nuclear power, then nothing will.

          • vargis14
          • 8 years ago

          I know there is much more then sea walls involved with the building of a nuclear power plant for gods sake,plus i know they have to be by water for cooling the rods and so on.
          Japan has many great minds its just the fact that history should have prepared them a little better for the tsunami giving the long history of Japanese tsunamis, including an 1896 tsunami that killed 22,000 people in the same region as the recent disaster. The prehistoric record, contains evidence of even more powerful tsunamis in Japan,More so since Japan is such a earthquake-prone nation,right on top of the ring of fire.
          Sure no one died yet from the radiation leaks but that stuff takes time to effect the body.Since humans live such a long time and birth to adulthood takes a good 20 years on average. The effects are much more profound then on wild animals.You can Use Chernobyl as a example.Since man has vacated the area wildlife has exploded and not showing hardly any effects from the radiation thats in and all around them.Wildlife has the luck of a Short development from Conception to Adulthood,along with lifespans well under 20 years.
          The west coast of north america is in line for a giant tsunami also.
          You can also add that i am not a nuclear engineer Just someone that thinks history has a way of warning you what WILL happen Again,Unfortunately we are far from predicting when.

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            The nuclear power plant in question was an ancient design that was about to retire.

            Considering that such ancient design withstand that level of disaster with only a partial meltdown is a testament to engineers.

            Don’t get me wrong, nuclear fission is hardly safe. However, most of the fears associated with it are grossly exaggerated.

          • ludi
          • 8 years ago

          He didn’t say “don’t build on the coast”, he did say “don’t build on the coast and then build the sea wall too low and put the backup generation in the basement.” The coastal location is not the problem, while both of the other have been identified as critical and unnecessary failure points in the follow-up investigation.

          The facility survived an earthquake magnitude exceeding its nominal design magnitude, which indicates that the overall civil engineering for the facility itself was very good. Putting backup generation for critical cooling systems in the basement? Full retard.

            • vargis14
            • 8 years ago

            Probably would not be a bad idea to have some wind turbines surrounding nuclear power plants…..as long as there is enough normal wind in the area to make them run.Along with plenty of batteries in safe spots that the turbines can charge up for when the wind is not present.
            Also keep the generators we need triple redundancy.Plus the wind turbines can add power to the grid.Under normal operation.

    • Madman
    • 8 years ago

    Funny that the US, where Internet was born, is crawling behind.

    The Internet speeds in US seem to be worse than what we get on GSM phones here.

    This is what we have here – [url<]http://latviantelecoms.blogspot.com/2009/10/lattelecom-announces-jump-to-500-mbps.html[/url<]

      • Krogoth
      • 8 years ago

      USA has the best internet infrastructure and most of the world’s traffic goes straight through it. USA has tons of fiber going around the major population hubs (DC. South Cal, Central Texas, Chicago, Northeastern Megapolis). The fiber is a legacy of the dot.com boom era and the interesting part is that most of it is untapped.

      The problem with residential internet connectivity in the USA has always been the last mile.

      It is not cheap nor easy setup the COs, nodes need to link up to the fiber networks. The problem is compounded by local politics, population distribution and economic incentive. (Does average joe really *need* 100Mbps both ways?)

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]The problem with residential internet connectivity in the USA has always been the last mile.[/quote<] Only because the "last mile" is controlled by a localized monopoly.

          • Krogoth
          • 8 years ago

          Brought on by local politics and barriers of entry.

          You cannot simply setup a local ISP by laying down wiring and works at whim. You have to get permission to use the existing infrastructure. The equipment to setup a local ISP shop isn’t cheap either. The local government and existing competitors will try everything in their power to make it difficult as possible.

          Even if it localize ISP wanted to put in additional wiring and infrastructure to support. They still have to go through local government and private land owners to get permission. I doubt they will get eminent domain for something putting down more internet pipes.

        • izmanq
        • 8 years ago

        i’m from indonesia, i just wondering, how fast is average speed for residential internet there, currently using one of big provider here, i got 6 mbit/sec for around 60 USD/month

        100mbps for home connection ? why not 😀 i would want one if i can, in the 70s or 80s, they say, does average joe really “need” a personal computer ::D

        i don’t know too much the technical details, but i thought a common CAT5 cable should do the job, and the connection can be use for multi purposes as for voice/video communication, and TV. and sometimes i don’t understand why people still using dial number 😐 with internet connection should not we all use something like internet messengers, much more flexible can do video, voice and text call, and all with flat rate.

    • Jakubgt
    • 8 years ago

    When is the United States going to get access to an affordable fiber optic connection?

      • quarantined
      • 8 years ago

      Why would that happen when ISPs can just gouge the consumer while keeping inferior bandwidth speeds and imposing monthly download caps as a fix? That’s how you turn a profit.

      • superjawes
      • 8 years ago

      Unfortunately…not anytime soon. Data demands are going up, but instead of increasing capacity, providers are just cutting supplies to users.

      • Krogoth
      • 8 years ago

      USA has tons of fiber laying around (most of it from the .com boom). The problem is the last mile.

      The problem itself is a combination of local politics, cost and infrastructure. ISPs cannot simply go around throw a bunch of new wiring and infrastructure at whim. They have to get approval from local governments and private owners (NIMBY). It isn’t cheap to setup nodes and COs (routers, switches and redundant systems).

      The geography and population distribution in the USA compounds the issue. Why should ISP want build the infrastructure need to give Rural Joe a 100Mbps+ service who lives 50 miles+ from any major city/population hub? There’s little or no economic incentive to do it.

        • eofpi
        • 8 years ago

        Let’s say I buy that for the Dakotas, west Texas, and other middles of nowhere. But it doesn’t explain the stalled speeds in major metro areas.

        The real problem is the lack of competition, since 71% of people in this country (a large portion of which are urban or suburban) have only one broadband option (aside from lagtastic satellite service). In Europe, where broadband competition is commonplace, internet speeds have continued to climb, while they’ve been largely stalled for over a decade here. Monopolies breed stagnation, and that’s exactly what we see here.

          • Krogoth
          • 8 years ago

          Politics is a big factor for suburban/urban areas in the USA.

          ISP, private landowners and local governments are dead-locked between conflicts of interest. 😉

          • EtherealN
          • 8 years ago

          What it takes is a bit of genious and local communities actually caring about getting a connection. An example is a small town I used to live in here in sweden, roughly 3000 people total, and there’s fiber all over the place – including private residences. This happened because the local government decided, as an infrastructure item, to build remote heating from the cellulose plant, and industrious individuals figured that – hey, we’ve got piping being laid down all over the place, let’s just ask them to put some fibers in there while they’re at it. Said and done.

          Similarly, most electrical mains wiring for the last-mile here is now done with a special kind of wire that has fiber channels in there as standard. The effect is that anytime the grid is getting upgrades, fiber happens automatically – all that’s “left” is for the local community to find someone that wants to set up the routers etcetera, which usually ends up sourced to one of the big telcos. I remember back in 97-98 when broadband was rolling out for real in the cities, and our local community here had a couple firebrands that went around and got a name list of people out here that wants it. After a while, the list of names was long enough that they could walk over to a telco office and basically say “here, we’ve got 500 households that will sign up day-one if you install ADSL equipment on the local exchange”.

          And, of course, you don’t need fiber to get good connections. A quick look across a few of our providers show 60Mbit for Telia ADSL (the former government monopoly), 250Mbit from Bredbandsbolaget, 200Mbit from ComHem, 24Mbit from Tele2 (250Mbit via Tele2 cable, but availability is dependent on which house you live in). Fiber connections are up to the gigabit though. I sometimes wish I didn’t live out in complete nowhere so I could get some of that action. (I have to make do with an 8mbit cellular, but it’s fast enough for most things and ping is _usually_ good enough for games – though obviously not fantastic.)

          I think one of the differences isn’t so much in regulation etcetera though, the big one is that swedes are just horny for the internet. I don’t know if we found internet porn quicker than most or whatever happened, but I just get the impression that we were quicker as a population in picking this stuff up (as opposed to having just nerds like myself pick it up). Another possiblity in some cases, like with eastern europe, is that the networks are overall younger – I’ve seen this is south america and parts of russia too; there wasn’t much of anything before, so when infrastructure was laid down it was all new stuff. But if you already have infrastructure in place, convincing the paperpushers to replace something they feel already works is of course hard.

          I’m not familiar enough with how the market is shaped in the US though, so it’s quite possible I’m way off the mark. But one takeaway is: as long as your phone exchanges are up to snuff, you don’t need fiber for fantastic connections – at least not last-mile fibers. Just fiber up the telephone exchange and shunt that juice into the copper.

    • EV42TMAN
    • 8 years ago

    this explains some of europe’s money problems they approve project that are plus or minus almost a billion dollars each.

      • Farting Bob
      • 8 years ago

      But it’ll reduce ping when playing CS with japanese players, so its worth it.

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      A possible minus-billion dollars for a project? A bargain!

        • Farting Bob
        • 8 years ago

        I’ll take 8! Oh Farting Bob, at last you are becoming a crafty consumer!

          • moose17145
          • 8 years ago

          Hahahaaa!!!

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, and it also explains why the Internet in Europe is fantastic and affordable, and why in the USA it’s slow and controlled by greedy monopolies making it expensive to everyone.

      This is a perfect example of how public money should be used, and why big government is good.

        • EtherealN
        • 8 years ago

        If our “big government” had had it’s way, this is what would have happened:

        1) Satelite dishes would have been outlawed in the 80’s, because they threatened the government monopoly on TV broadcasts.
        2) There would only have been a single telco – the state. You know what happens to prices when someone has a monopoly enforced by law? 🙂

        Fortunately, we had a couple years of right-wingers in the beginning of the 90’s that removed those silly state monopolies just in time for the dot-com boom, and then we got our awesome internet connections when private actors saw a chance to make some money.

        The solution is to not have monopolies. The problem is quite often that monopolies end up enforced by the state. And of course, there is what is called natural monopolies, and wired infrastructure (just like the electrical grid) is one of those – doesn’t make sense to have 10 redundant phone lines into every house etcetera. But the solution when combating those is to do what BBB did here in sweden: just roll out their own stuff, starting with cities, and blow all the retard companies out of the water for a couple years until they figure out what’s happening and decide they have to at least _try_ to compete. 🙂 One possible way of doing this would be to use alternative infrastructure – if the telcos are being bitches, piggyback on the electrics company; give them a cut of your revenue for the pleasure of having your fibers go on their cables etcetera. The solution is always out there, but my experience of government solutions in this field is that they’ll sink a LOT of money into a LOT of projects, and 9 out of 10 will be total flops and failures. We still can’t get proper ADSL at my house because the government-controlled (but not government owned) infrastructure company can’t figure out that digging cables down into mud in a country where the ground freezes and thaws a couple times a year is to beg for a billion shorts… 😀

        EDIT: And correct me if I’m wrong, but when I’m looking at the owners of these cables, looks like they are privately held. Not government projects.

          • Bensam123
          • 8 years ago

          …cause nothing was ever more popular then satellites… like over the air broadcasts…

          You’re worried about the government bumm raping you on prices because they have a monopoly? Oo

          You know you have more control over the government then over a company right? A company is made almost completely to generate a profit (unless they’re non-proft), the government is here for the people.

            • EtherealN
            • 8 years ago

            The government is SUPPOSED to be there for the people.

            The government is however quite busy doing the opposite. Consider for example that the government spent tonnes of time listening to companies when working up ACTA and similar local legislation, but how much time was spent listening to “the people”?

            The point is that monopolies are bad for prices. “Big Government” don’t solve that, in my personal experience they just make it worse. And wanting to tout “Big Government” as the solution to poor connections, and use europe as an example, fails on the simple point that it wasn’t the government that gave us our awesome connections. It was private startups funded by venture capital that decided to proliferate fiber all over the country at low costs to the consumer. That’s just simple fact.

            EDIT: Not sure I get your point about things being more popular than satellite. Did you miss the point that there was no such thing as non-government broadcasts unless it came in via satellite? Broadcasting was a criminal offense! (The private competition that arose circumvented it through having their operations abroad, usually in the UK, and so called “pirate radio” would either broadcast from international waters or simply accept the fact that they’d get raided once a month…)

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            Yes, and even if the government is corrupt you still have a better chance of changing it then a company you have ZERO control over. Corruption can be changed, companies can’t be changed without regulation, which is once again the government stepping in.

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        At least capitalism is safe… I bet you’re communist… and a hippie… and a terrorist.

          • Anonymous Coward
          • 8 years ago

          Freeeeeedooommmm!!!!

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            Yes, you are free to -1 me. :'(

    • dashbarron
    • 8 years ago

    I know I’m bad with geography…but am I the only one who was scratching their head when I read Japan and UK? Just seems such an odd connection to try and make.

      • superjawes
      • 8 years ago

      Both are pretty dense island nations…and they’re pretty close if you go through the North Pole. It seems VERY far trying to go through all of Asia or North America, but it’s not bad if you just pass by greenland through some empty, frozen water. A picture’s been added with the path…although not directly on this page…

      • Sam125
      • 8 years ago

      If you consider that London and Tokyo are arguably the #1 and #3 financial capitals of the world, spending a few billion on a cable that would cut latency between the two countries and finaicial hubs makes more sense.

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 8 years ago

        Other than some banks making money with high-speed automated trading, the value of which is debatable at best and parasitic at worst, why do financial centers need especially low-latency connections?

    • not@home
    • 8 years ago

    So, if a ship anchor does destroy an undersea fiber-optic cable, is it repairable. If so, how? Do they get some divers or do they pull up the cable or what?

      • moop2000
      • 8 years ago

      It is repairable, but it ain’t easy nor cheap. They haul up the damaged cable, open it up, splice the fiber cable back together, re-seal the cable, and drop it back to the floor. There are specialized companies and ships that handle this kind of job. This is also why they try to put the cable in areas that won’t have anchors hitting them 🙂

    • anotherengineer
    • 8 years ago

    I wonder if we’ll see something like that in North America, dedicated fiber to individual countries. Hmmm big corps here spending money on future investments……….maybe not.

    edit – shouldn’t in theory latency in fiber be around 1ms, I mean assuming the light travels at the speed of light?
    I can see large latencies when it reaches a hub or distribution center, but the length of fiber from Tokyo to London should be less than 170ms??

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 8 years ago

      My thoughts being the same, I wonder if that is accuonting for Some hub traffic on each end.

      • moose17145
      • 8 years ago

      The speed of light is only the “speed of light” in a perfect vacuum. In a medium, such as glass, light moves much slower. Also keep in mind too that the light beam isn’t perfectly following the cable. By that I mean that the length the light travels is actually longer than the cable itself. The happens because the light is bouncing around inside the cable itself. This is more of an issue for multi-mode fiber than for single mode (which I would assume they are using for this), but even in single mode the light still bounces around some, thus adding to the latency.

      I know wiki isn’t the perfect answer to all questions, but I feel this does a sufficient job explaining how fiber optic works, with regards to latency involving the speed of light, you should read the section labeled “Index of refraction”. To understand what I am saying about the light bouncing around inside the cable, read the section directly below it titled “Total internal reflection” (also the next couple sections about multi-mode and single mode are good as well).

      [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_fiber[/url<] edited for a few errors I found when I reread what I typed and to add the recommendation to also read the section about the internal reflection of fiber cables, as I found it to be relevant to this thread.

        • superjawes
        • 8 years ago

        Beat me to it. Bouncing, glass slowing it down, and the fact that you still have to interface with electonic components (repeaters and hardware on each end) all slow down the latency from the theoretical full speed of light maximum.

        Granted, it’s still a LOT faster than copper wire would be.

          • moose17145
          • 8 years ago

          True. It’s also more secure, not really susceptible to EMI (ElectroMagnetic Interference), and works over longer distances as well. It is rather hard to send an electrical signal that far over any type of metal as the inherent resistance of the wiring itself will essentially stop the signal, and even if it doesn’t, then you also have to contend with EMI ruining the data integrity (this doesn’t have to be like a big electrical motor or a magnet next to the wire either, as each cable generates it’s own small EM field around it, and if you put a bunch of them next to each other they can start to cross talk just from the EM fields mingling with each other and messing up the data the cables are trying to send … although fiber can technically cross talk as well… but I would say it’s much easier to manage IMO). Likewise on the security front it’s much easier to read the data going over a regular metal wire based upon what it’s EM field is doing (or heck… even just flat up splicing into the cable and attaching some monitoring equipment directly to the metal wires themselves), than trying to splice into a fiber cable without breaking the core to read the leaked light to see what is being sent.

          • videobits
          • 8 years ago

          Actually, the speed through copper and fiber is pretty close.
          Through fiber around 65-70% of the speed of light through vacuum.
          And depending on cable type typically 60-80% speed.

          So the speed will be about the same through either medium. Distance the signal can travel is much greater through the fiber.

          Interesting calculator here:
          [url<]http://www.timbercon.com/time-delay-of-light-in-fiber-calculator/[/url<] If you assume a 12km path between locations, that works out to about a 59msec delay through the fiber in addition to whatever electronics are causing delays.

            • superjawes
            • 8 years ago

            Yeah, I think I kinda mixed my terms with respect to propagation speed and data speed…

            Point is, latency will be much better with a fiber cable than sinking copper instead.

        • pragma
        • 8 years ago

        Um, you would use the same fundamental mode for either single mode or multimode transmission. The light will propagate “straight”. However, in multimode cable the signal tends to smear (modal dispersion) whereas single mode cable keeps it in shape for longer distances. Effective index of refraction determines the velocity (approx c/1.5), with single mode cable slightly slower! Mind you, all this is one google/bing away… The underwater cable itself will probably snake around quite significantly.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      Pretty sure there is more then a laser on each end. I’m guessing they need repeaters which add latency so it can span the whole distance.

      • Stranger
      • 8 years ago

      I’d imagine its the repeaters that they have to build into the cable every 70 km or so that add the bulk of the latency

    • BiffStroganoffsky
    • 8 years ago

    Interesting choice to terminate the trunk in two island nations. One just have to wonder how many ‘accidents’ are going to happen to the line from Chinese anchors or sub props. 😮

    • chuckula
    • 8 years ago

    It’s going to be BIG in Japan! (just like Bon Jovi)

      • Neutronbeam
      • 8 years ago

      AND Cheap Trick!

      • dpaus
      • 8 years ago

      …but maybe not [i<]quite[/i<] as big as Spinal Tap!

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      Or Alphaville

      • wabbit
      • 8 years ago

      what about Guano Apes… they were big as well

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