Hibernia Subsea Cable Clears a Tougher Path to Offer Lower Latency

Alex Vaxmonsky


Something happened in September that hasn’t happened for 12 years. Hibernia Networks launched a transatlantic submarine cable, the first new subsea cable to span the Atlantic since 2003.

The fact that it’s been more than a decade might seem incredible, given the exponential increase in data traffic during this period of astounding Internet growth. But it simply reflects the fact that subsea cable investments have recently been more focused on reaching underserved regions. Africa and Asia, for instance, have accounted for the bulk of new submarine cable investments in the past three years, according TeleGeography’s Global Bandwidth Research Service.

The new $300 million Hibernia Express cable is about more than opening up another route between Europe and North America. This subsea cable is the first designed specifically for low latency, so it takes the most direct path possible across the ocean. That meant taking steps like designing it to account for the curvature of earth, and laying it down where subsea cables normally don’t go.

The result is the fastest route between New York and London ̶ under 59 milliseconds latency ̶ making it a major asset to industries where speed is essential, including financial services. And Equinix is part of making this happen because the cable is hosted in our data centers in both New York and London. Today, we announced that the Hibernia Express cable now directly connects our NY4 and LD4 facilities.

Massive, ever-increasing demand

Global Internet traffic forecasts do nothing but point upward, propelled by trends like mobile, the Internet of Things and big data. Cisco says global Internet traffic will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23% between 2014 and 2019, and the predicted growth is even more pronounced over that span in particular industry segments. Cisco projects a 33% CAGR in global Internet video traffic and a 57% CAGR in global mobile data traffic.

All this has huge implications for subsea cable operators. The Internet runs on a pretty seamless global interconnection fabric, so it’s easy to overlook the continents it links are not all contiguous. Nearly every byte of data on the Internet must hit a subsea cable once it routes out of its region of origin. As a result, subsea cables handle an enormous and increasing volume of traffic.

Projects like the Hibernia Express provide much-needed capacity. But the project’s focus on low latency added the dimension of superior speed to its offering and required some extraordinary measures to guarantee that.

All network operators lay subsea cable paths as straight as possible, but certain places must be accounted for and avoided. Fishing areas, earthquake prone-zones and environmentally sensitive regions are examples of those places, and, traditionally, so are shallow water areas. There, cables risk damage from ship anchors and other shallow-water hazards, and the expense of protecting the cable is often deemed not worth the cost. But for Hibernia Networks, opening the most direct path across the Atlantic meant crossing shallow water. So they buried heavily armored cable 1 to 3 meters deep in the ocean floor for more than 1,200 miles. No transatlantic project traverses more shallow water on continental shelf.

The finished, 2,850-mile Hibernia Express cable connects Brean, England, with Halifax, Canada. From both points, traffic is routed on the Hibernia system to markets including New York, Chicago, London and Paris. The cable delivers a transmission capacity of 100 gigabits per second, nearly triple any other transatlantic cable in service today.

When the cable went live in late September, Hibernia Networks Chief Commercial Officer Omar Altaji summed up what his company was offering: “Web-centric customers across the globe can count on Hibernia Express for reliable, high-speed connectivity that results in improved business performance and an outstanding user experience.”

Click the links to learn more about Equinix’s support for subsea cable systems.

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Alex Vaxmonsky Former Director, Business Development for Global Service Providers
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