Today undersea cable operator Hibernia Atlantic broke ranks with the rest of the sector and announced something we haven't seen in quite a while: a new transatlantic cable. There was some speculation last year about a coming shortage in transatlantic bandwidth, as prices did not yet support new cable builds and capacity was not unlimited with a long lead time needed before one can bring a cable online. What happened between now and then? The financial markets discovered low latency in a big way of course, and are willing to pay for it. And that is what is powering Hibernia's new project.
The new four-fiber pair cable, entitled 'Project Express', will stretch from the county of Somerset in the UK and stretch to Halifax up in Nova Scotia, where it will connect to Hibernia's existing cable connecting Halifax to New York. Once complete, the full New York to London route is expected to be sub 60ms round trip delay, taking a substantial bite out of current transit times. It will initially be lit with 40Gbps technology, expandable to 100Gbps of course. The projected arrival time is the summer of 2012.
If the project comes to fruition, it will put Hibernia and its Global Financial Network into a powerful position for all latency sensitive transatlantic traffic. The cable currently in that position is Global Crossing's AC-1, which has lifted its prospects despite its relative age compared to the rest of the field.
It is certainly a bold move by Hibernia. However, could it cause a response by competing cables? Hmmm, none of Tata, Reliance, Apollo (C&W), Level 3, or Global Crossing seem to be in a position to build anything new. But I wonder about Verizon and/or AT&T, and whether they might express interest in the Atlantic again as they did in the Pacific recently. It also depends on just how close Hibernia's cable is to the fastest feasible route, the sea floor is a complicated place. But then, Hibernia has been doing much of the building under the Atlantic of late, with its Irish projects and such.
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