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Wall Street Tries Shortwave Radio to Make High-Frequency Trades Across the Atlantic

Financial firms hope radio can execute trades faster than fiber optic cables

3 min read
A photo of a cell tower with multiple levels of antennas sticking out of it.
Photo: Bob Van Valzah

In 2010, the company Spread Networks completed a fiber-optic cable linking two key trading hubs: Chicago and New York (or rather New Jersey, where Wall Street has its computerized trading equipment). That cable, built at a cost of some US $300 million, took the most direct route between those two points and shaved more than a millisecond from what had formerly been the shortest round-trip travel time for information: 14.5 milliseconds.

That tiny time savings was a boon for high-frequency financial traders, who could take advantage of it to buy or sell before others learned of distant price shifts. This general strategy, called latency arbitrage, has driven a technological arms race in the trading world, with companies competing fiercely to send information from one trading center to another in the minimum possible time.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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