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1000ft Masts for Financial Trades Could Boost Broadband in Kent

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 (12:48 pm) - Score 1,040

Vigilant Global and New Line Networks (NLN) have proposed to build two new 1,000ft (304 metres) tall and 3 metre wide towers in the South Thanet area of Kent (England) in order to make large financial trades fractionally faster, but they could also be used to improve local broadband connectivity.

The massive masts, which use Microwave radio (wireless) technology, would be designed to shave a few milliseconds off the response time of financial trading data sent via UK and Europe. Admittedly a few milliseconds might not sound like much, but it can make a huge difference in the market for big supercomputer dominated financial trading.

According to The Guardian, the new network would also be supported by a 3,200 mile long fibre optic cable that stretches from New York (USA) to Land’s End in Cornwall, then on to London and eventually to Germany’s financial centre of Frankfurt.

As a bonus the two operators have promised to assist those in the surrounding communities by helping them to access faster broadband and mobile broadband connectivity, such as by allowing operators to install related infrastructure on the side or top of their masts.

NLN Statement:

“NLN is committed to serving the communities in which we operate. We look forward to working closely with the local Dover and wider East Kent communities to collectively develop a plan that enables them to share in the benefits of a proposed mast development.”

Mind you this is easier said than done and there may be a few potential points of conflict. Firstly, the Kent and Medway councils are already working with BT and the Broadband Delivery UK programme to extend the reach of FTTC/P based superfast broadband (24Mbps+) services to 91% and this could hit 95% by around the end of 2017 (here).

On top of that VFast (OrbitalNet) already has a 24Mbps capable fixed wireless broadband network that can reach many parts of Kent, which is often overlooked. Suffice to say that careful consideration would need to be paid in regards to the threat from overbuilding and indeed whether or not the new masts would result in enough of a benefit over existing plans.

The other problem is that locals have not yet been consulted about the plans and most appear to be understandably unhappy about the idea. In this case we’d say that the usual accusations of NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard) might not be fair, after all a 1,000ft tower is quite a significant piece of infrastructure and would have a very noticeable impact. However this may be more of a concern for those living closest.

Otherwise there’s not a lot of detail to go around and if approved then it’s expected that the new towers would take around 6 months to construct.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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10 Responses
  1. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    Why do the towers have to be 1000 feet high?

    1. Avatar Ignition says:

      To give them line of sight to whatever they’re talking to.

    2. Depending on their link distance, it could also be that tall to take into effect the curvature of the Earth!

    3. Avatar GNewton says:

      “Why do the towers have to be 1000 feet high?”

      So that a few greedy London City traders can further enrich them, and then, when a bank goes bust again, the taxpayers can bail them out again with Billions of Pounds.

    4. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      @Ignition

      Even a 1,000 foot mast won’t give you that much line-of-sight in that the horizon is only about 39 miles away from the top. So from the top of two 1,000 foot towers on “flat” ground, that’s less than 80 miles. Of course more is available if you build on higher ground at each end, but even then the distance to the horizon only goes as tho the square root of height.

      Unless there’s a chain of such towers to get to Frankfurt (and relaying signals would slow things down), then it must make some use of radio waves being refracted round the curvature of the Earth.

      In any event, I can’t see this helping local broadband to any significant amount. Generally mobile and wireless is moving to more, but smaller cells in order to increase speed and minimise congestion. It sounds like a sop to local communities to get them to agree to this thing.

      However, towers of this height are hardly unknown in the UK. The transmitter tower near Donington on Bain in Linconshire, is 1,154ft tall whilst the one at Winter Hill in Lancs is also over 1,000 feet (I’m sure a lot of people have seen that one from the M61).

    5. Avatar DTMark says:

      ^ very good 😉

      I was thinking that a proposal for a 4G tower 1km tall wouldn’t even get off the ground (!) because the opposition would see it killed stone dead, but if shaves 1ms off the latency for City users then that’s clearly way more important than trying to get a service to thousands of people struggling to get any usable broadband connection and perhaps certain avenues to oppose the build may be, shall we say, ‘closed down’.

    6. Avatar MikeW says:

      The towers need this height to cross the channel – not at the shortest crossing point, but at the “optimal” straight-line path between Slough and Frankfurt. The far end would appear to be masts on top of a tall apartment building in Belgium.

  2. Avatar gerarda says:

    They would be an eyesore at night too. At one time masts needed only a light at the top as a warning for aircraft but the CAA decided that some pilots might decide to fly under the light. So instead of banning such morons from have a pilot’s licence it decided the mast had to be lit form top to bottom.

  3. Avatar HFT-fan says:

    For a great write up of the background to this tower and the many others already in place as part of the never ending game of one-upmanship between the HFT firms:

    https://sniperinmahwah.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/hft-in-the-banana-land/

  4. Avatar MikeW says:

    An interesting thing from the HFT stuff is that they prefer to use microwave to fibre because it is faster.

    The Guardian story is wrong on one part though … the cross-Atlantic cable that aims for minimum latency is the Hibernia Express, that is designed to follow a great-circle route from NY to London. It doesn’t arrive at Land’s End, but comes ashore at Brean, Somerset, where it gives a handy boost to Truespeed/Wansdyke.

    I posted a little about it, including links to the “sniperinmahwah” website, in a recent story on Truespeed.
    http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/02/priston-in-north-east-somerset-to-get-100mbps-fttp-broadband-in-april.html

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