Fibre may be fast, but for real speed when it matters data has to go through the air.
The point has been proven again in steel-and-concrete terms with a proposed new mast for radio traffic across the English Channel. The mast is planned for a site at Richborough in Kent near Sandwich on the Channel coast but, at 30 feet higher than The Shard in central London, it is not coming without controversy.
Local residents are fighting plans for the 1,049 foot structure proposed by American stockbroking company DRW Trading. They claim it will be visible from a large number of local beauty spots and designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
But, for DRW Trading the hurdles are clearly worth overcoming. “ATDI completed a study for another company comparing data speed through fibre and through the air,” says ATDI operations director Paul Grant. “Air wins every time and, even though the difference is only microseconds, for traders whose computers are automatically triggered to buy or sell by certain market thresholds, the financial implications are staggering.”
Paul is following development of the mast with interest and, in particular, is curious about how far the data it transmits will travel. “You need line-of-sight for microwave links such as the one now being proposed and that means you want the shortest distance possible between transmitter and receiver to achieve the fastest data transfer times. The people who want to build the mast must have worked out how far they think the data will go in a single hop. I’d love to see what number they have come up with.”
The mast is bound by other parameters, too. Paul notes that the further the data has to travel the bigger the transmitter dish to send it and the higher that is placed the greater the loading on the tower – particularly on a windy day. “With a mast that tops 1,000 feet, I hope the structural engineers have checked their numbers,” Paul comments.
If completed, the mast will transmit data passing across the world’s busiest shipping lane but, at microwave frequencies, its signal will not interfere with the VHF networks used on the sea beneath it.