Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A new high-speed undersea data cable has opened, connecting Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. It is the 7,800km Asia Submarine-cable Express (ASE), the fastest seabed Internet cable (pictured) in the Asia. It transfers data via an optical fibre system at 40 gigabits per second, and is three milliseconds faster than any other cable between Singapore and Tokyo. The gain in speed may sound small, but it could prove critical to financial trades made out of the region.
So-called "high frequency trades," controlled by computers, involve making what may be hundreds of thousands of transactions in less than a second-all determined by a programme that tracks market conditions in real time.
With banks and hedge funds competing against each other, the size of the profit or loss can come down to a matter of beating the competition by a fraction of a second, explained strategist Ralph Silva.
"So if all banks come to the same trading decision at the same time, the one to get the transaction to the master computer first wins," Silva added. Technical support is thus crucial to handling transactions. In fact, "Three milliseconds in computer time is an hour in human time."
The engineers who designed the route for the new cable chose it as straight as possible, reducing the time to get information from one end to the other to 65 milliseconds. In practice, a data transfer capacity of 40Gbps is the equivalent of downloading a high-resolution DVD in about two seconds.
The ASE joins an established web of undersea cables in the waters around Japan, including cables run by operators based in Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Many were damaged by a powerful earthquake near Japan's northeast coast in March 2011. An earlier earthquake in December 2006, off the south-west coast of Taiwan, also broke several cables, disrupting telecommunications in Asian countries.
For this reason, "We avoided the area around Taiwan, where earthquakes are common," said Hiroyuki Matsumoto, senior director of network services at NTT, one of the four partners involved in the project. There other three are PLDT, a Filipino telecom company; StarHub, a mobile phone operator in Singapore; and Telekom Malaysia.