When the use of fibre-optic networks spread through the electronic securities markets in the early Noughties, many thought it marked the end of one element of the e-trading arms race. Surely, they reasoned, trading could not get faster than the speed of light?
But light is not free to travel at its natural speed through a fibre-optic cable, according to Derek Haworth, president and chief operating officer of US specialist network provider Born Capital.
Instead, it bounces off the small pieces of glass that make up fibre-optic cabling as it twists around bends. At best, said Haworth, data travelling down a fibre-optic cable, even in a straight line, can travel at only 68% of the speed of light.