Seeking a shorter route: global latency metrics

10 September 2011 | John Hibbard


Translating a love of maps into an analysis of latency metrics around the globe.

After many months of wondering whether the Pacific Fibre cable would materialise, given the challenges of securing funding in the current economic environment, it was exciting to be invited to the announcement of the supply contract for this trans-Pacific cable.

The Pacific Fibre cable will run from Australia/New Zealand direct to the US west coast. The system, some 12,000km in length and to be supplied by Tyco, will be configured initially for 40G with the potential to upgrade to 100G. It is targeted for a 2014 launch.

While the contract has been signed, it needs to come into force which will occur when funding is concluded. However, with several customers signed and others rumoured to be in the pipeline, the prospects look promising.

Pacific Fibre has highlighted previously that because of its direct route, lower latency is one of its attributes. This got me looking at other latency metrics around the globe. One of the most interesting routes is between Tokyo and London and I set about measuring the distances:

 Route from Tokyo to London 

One way distance 

 Great circle distance

9,500km 

 Across Russia and Europe

11,000km 

 Via Bering Strait and White Sea

12,000km 

 Via Bering Strait and North West Passage 

13,500km 

 Across Pacific, USA and Atlantic

18,000km

 Via Singapore, Indian Ocean and the Med

20,000km


The results clearly indicate the latency benefits of the terrestrial route across Russia. However it also explains why there is growing interest in the route through the fabled North West Passage as a short route from Asia to Europe.

The effects of global warming suggest that this route will be open for regular shipping around 2013 so why consider a submarine cable along that route. The comparative distances show its attraction compared to existing trans-Pacific and trans-Indian Ocean routings. I watch with interest to see what emerges.

I did hear that the newly proposed Emerald Atlantis cable across the north Atlantic will have a stubbed branching unit suitable to connect to a North West Passage-Greenland cable and provide a connection through to London. Very interesting!