Today we can say something that we haven’t said in more than a decade: a new transatlantic cable system has been born. Hibernia Networks today said that Hibernia Express, the cable system it has been working on since 2010 in various forms, is officially ready for service.
Hibernia Express connects Halifax, Nova Scotia with Cork, Ireland and Slough, England on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It covers 4,600km, has six fiber pairs and starts out at 100Gbps per wavelength with 400Gbps envisioned when needed.
The new cable opens a lower latency route between the key financial markets of New York and London, bringing the round trip latency below 60ms. That was originally the driving force behind the project, but in the years since the financial appetite for low latency connectivity has become less frantic. But that appetite is still significant and has spread in a more mature form to other sectors, and satisfying it will help Hibernia recoup its investments.
Keeping the latency low had significant impacts on the project. According to the company, in order to follow the shortest path, the system spends more time in shallow waters than other cable systems. That means more of it must be heavily armored and/or deeply buried in order to keep it safe from fishing boats and the like. That raised the cost above what a more run-of-the-mill systems might otherwise have cost.
Transatlantic cables have been a tough business since the dot com bubble burst and left a glut of capacity on the market. That made it very hard to fund a new cable, but three years ago it looked like the company was ready to roll anyway. Then came the national security fears surrounding Huawei gear, forcing them back to the drawing board for a new vendor an update to the financing. But last summer Hibernia finally had everything it needed in place and started putting boats in the water.
Now that Hibernia is done with this undersea project, it’s worth asking what the next one will be. It’s probably unlikely to see the company replicate this build in other geographies, and of course lots of the opportunities now will come on the terrestrial side of each cable. But I’m wondering if they might not follow up by overbuilding the other leg of their cable system between Halifax and New York City.
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