Network latency between Europe and Asia will hopefully be a thing of the past
European traders seeking Asia in the 15th century faced numerous obstacles: first of all, the journey took years by land or sea, and there were lethal perils. So, the dream of the “Northwest Passage” – a route that goes across the Atlantic, then over the top of North America, before trailing down to Japan.
Unfortunately, it remained a dream as the Northwest Passage saw ice, ice in Canada, and… ice. Navigating the passage was impossible for hundreds of years, and the route was not commercially viable due to, well, all the perilous ice.
The problems of the long, in some places impossible to navigate journey from Europe to Asia have followed Europeans into the 21st century, in the form of an uncomfortably long network latency between northern Europe and Asia.
And in the spirit of 1920 intrepid explorers, Finnish company Cinia and US telco infrastructure company Far North Digital have united to build a submarine cable named the Far North Fiber which will traverse the route.
At one of the cable, there’ll be Japan. It’ll go on to touch Alaska and the Canadian Arctic before ending in Norway, Finland and Ireland. The route is as follows:
Pan-Arctic Fibre Cable Route
One of the factors for the latency is the fact there is complexity within the existing cables. Europe and Asia are already connected via the FLAG and SEA-ME-WE3 cables, which pass through the Suez Canal and other finicky areas which are vulnerable to sabotage if someone were to be determined enough (and, you know, there are lots of determined people out there.) The other routes require cross-connection and thus, we’ve ended up with a complicated connection which has slowed down the network significantly.
Far North Fiber will solve that problem by being a shorter trip and an alternative route – kind of like a slip road.
We can see (thanks to submarinecablemap.com) that while cables are already operating in Arctic climes, some further north than this one would need to pass, they are rare. It is therefore super exciting to see this feat of engineering, should the memorandum of understanding signed by Cinia and Far North Digital come to fruition.
There plan would see the cable taking network traffic from as soon as 2025, which is achieved, would beat Russia’s Polar Express cable to market by a year. However, the Polar Express will only land in Russia after using northern waters to travel from Asia to Europe.
It is worth noting that the sea ice that once plagued the Northern Passage has dwindled over the years, opening up the route to more frequent shipping routes. Cinia and Far North Digital hope that the conditions will make their construction efforts easier.