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EXA Deploy New Hybrid Microwave-Fibre Route Between UK and USA

Tuesday, Feb 27th, 2024 (9:50 am) - Score 1,280

Network operator EXA Infrastructure has today announced a new plan to deploy a high-capacity hybrid data transmission route between New York and London, which will use a mix of existing subsea fibre optic cables and a new Microwave wireless link to deliver ultra-low latency transatlantic connectivity.

The idea of combining fibre optic cables with specialist point-to-point style Microwave links on huge masts is nothing new to the UK, and a series of massive masts already exist for just such a purpose. The goal of such network combinations is usually to try and shave a few milliseconds off the response time (latency) of large-scale financial trading (i.e. it’s not merely about raw data speeds).

NOTE: Exa Express is a 4,600km long and 6-pair Trans-Atlantic submarine fibre optic cable system that runs between Canada, Ireland and the UK (Somerset). The cable has a total cross-sectional design capacity of over 53Tbps (Terabits per second).

In a normal network, the odd millisecond here or there doesn’t really matter much, but it can make a huge difference in the market for big supercomputer dominated financial trading. EXA already owns and operates the “lowest latency transatlantic cable“, EXA Express (from New York to London, the round-trip delay on this is 58.55ms), and the new hybrid route might be able to beat that.

Nicholas Collins, EXA’s Chief Commercial Officer, said:

“The demand for accelerated connectivity between leading financial exchanges remains unabated. We are proud to offer the fastest transatlantic fibre routes for financial exchanges between the US and the UK and will continue to listen to our customers when making strategic investments in our network to deliver additional value that supports their growth. Market leading latencies for trade execution means greater financial returns for our customers.”

The new hybrid microwave-fibre route will see Microwave technology introduced between Slough-LD4 and EXA’s Cable Landing Station in Cork, Ireland. This is interesting because the EXA Express cable also runs onward, directly to a landing site in the village of Brean in Somerset (England), which suggests they’re trying to cut out some of the middle-men delays along the final fibre run to London by effectively bypassing it via a long-range Microwave link.

Sadly, the announcement doesn’t clarify the exact network setup and performance details, thus we don’t know how much latency they might be able to shave off the current route.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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3 Responses
  1. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    Quick calc: according to some website I found, the Great Circle distance between Heathrow and Cork airport is 557km.

    Over fibre, at ~2/3c, the one-way propagation delay is 2.79ms. Over the air, at c, this drops to 1.86ms.

    So at best, you could save 0.93ms one way, or 1.86ms on round trip time.

    But this ignores any extra latency from radio modulation/demodulation at each end and in microwave repeaters. It also ignores the longer transmission delays if the bit rate on the radio is lower than the bit rate on the fibre.

    1. Avatar photo Martin says:

      Also worth considering that the fibre route would likely follow roads or the railway, and not be a straight/curved line between the two points

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Microwave path will be as close as possible to straight line providing some good savings on length given the fibre will be a long way from shortest possible route, with kit built for and devoted to minimal latency: c. 25 microseconds per repeater site.

      High frequency trade will be small amounts of data. A full size 1526 byte Ethernet frame is 12.2 microseconds over a gigabit link, these trade bursts will be smaller if at all possible.

      These networks are already all over the place including across the Channel and heading to Paris and Frankfurt for HFT.

      If EXA don’t allow connection to their fibre at Cork this means they can offer a super premium service. If they do they can take business from those profitable microwave links from elsewhere currently used between Cork and London and deliver a single end to end service.

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