21st Century Highways

Published on July 22, 2015

21st Century Highways

Next year we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest infrastructure projects entirely implemented on the territory of modern Russia. In 1916, the section of the Trans-Siberian Railway was completed bypassing the existing span of the China-East Railway (CER). Thus, the Russian Empire actually became a monopoly on the physical connection of Europe with the countries of the Pacific region. A huge distance of more than 10,000 km from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok was made possible to overcome by steam traction in just 16 days, along the sea route this road took at least 2 months. If we take into account the aforementioned CER, the actual regular railway communication between the "East" and the "West" began even earlier - in 1901. In addition to such a significant anniversary, this year marks the 145th anniversary of the first telegraph service between St. Petersburg and Vladivostok. 30 years before the establishment of railway communication, thanks to engineering and the colossal efforts of thousands of people, it became possible to transmit information from across the planet in a matter of hours. Such significant dates not only instill in us a sense of pride in our predecessors, but also involuntarily run into discussions about the present day.

Severed world

After 100 years, the uniqueness of the territory of the Russian Federation not only has not lost its value as a bridge between the centers of world civilization, but moreover it has become more relevant than ever. If in the XIX-XX centuries the most expensive goods were material goods, and their delivery as soon as possible was especially important, then in the XXI century information has become more important than ever and, accordingly, the infrastructure along which it moves.

For obvious reasons, in the 20th century the world situation was not very favorable for the construction of bridges between east and west. Two destructive world wars, unfolding uncompromising ideological confrontations that separated our planet dictated a policy of isolationism and the closeness of entire regions of the Earth. The fall of the communist regime in the USSR and its satellites, as well as a revision by the Chinese leadership of the country's policy towards openness, inspired new hopes for expanding economic ties between the East and the West.

The economic boom of recent decades in Southeast Asia, as well as having already achieved high development parameters of the country, generate from year to year a growing demand for the disposal of the existing IT industry. IT backbones have become one of those limited resources that the people of China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and other regional leaders have faced with a deficit. Paved over many years along the bottom of the seas and oceans of cable, around the countries of social. camps, at the moment, clearly do not satisfy existing needs, and this is natural. In addition to the already voiced factor of high growth in traffic consumption, one cannot but take into account technological progress, which makes some of the functioning cables simply unnecessary for use in conjunction with new technologies.

One of the features of the existing connections between Europe and Asia is the huge number of laid submarine cables, with a frankly small number of land cables. Crossing the entire Mediterranean Sea, going around the Arabian Peninsula, Hindustan, overcoming another sea - the South China, a data packet from Europe has a chance to get to a server located in China, the answer to the request will follow the same route, but in the reverse order. The physical distance between users on this route can reach 20,000 km, causing a network delay of more than 200 milliseconds. If traffic from Europe is routed through highways tied to the United States, the distance will be even greater, and the network delay value, PING, will increase accordingly.

For the above reasons, currently there is a lag in both quantitative and qualitative characteristics of networks. In recent years, use cases for laying new highways through the Arctic region have been actively developed. For example, at the final stage is the fiber optic line laid by Arctic Fiber. Starting from London, it must pass through the northern part of the Atlantic, Canada, rounding Alaska, its finish is planned in Tokyo. The stacked fiber is created according to the latest technical standards and each of the cores will be able to support data transfer at a speed of 100 Gigabits / s. The line will be commissioned in 2016, its length will be about 15,600 km. But even this promising project is inferior to analogues designed with Russia in mind.

Transit Europe Asia

The picture of the existing infrastructure between Europe and Asia is not deeply ideal, the reason for this is the very weak presence in it of the territory of the Russian Federation and the opportunities that it brings. Regardless of whether it is underwater or land routes, all the shortest routes for combining the Old World with the most developed regions of Asia lie through Russia.

Of the existing highways connecting the Eurasian continent through the territory of the Russian Federation, it is possible to single out the Transit Europe Asia (TEM) project highways. Four lines - TEM-1, TEM-2, TEM-3, TEM-4, most of their way pass through a rather narrow corridor coinciding with the Siberian Telegraph laid and back in the middle of the 19th century and a little later on the Trans Siberian Railway.

The main objective of the project being created, conceived by Rostelecom back in 2003, was to connect two rapidly developing regions of the world. After 12 years, we can safely say that the high hopes that were assigned to the project, fully justified themselves. By combining western Europe with eastern China and further Japan, the TEM backbones not only expanded the ability to transfer traffic, but also reduced the network delay between its extreme users by more than a third.

At that time, when the first line - TEM-1 was created with a throughput of only 60 Gigabits / s, now all four lines allow transporting traffic at a speed of up to 8 Terabytes / s. These figures are perhaps the most eloquent argument confirming the success of the entire project. But this is not surprising, since the TEM project was doomed to good luck from the very beginning. In addition to the needs for new IT backbones, Rostelecom also played an important role in the arm - almost the entire length of the cable route was laid by land. Thanks to the existing power transmission lines on the main part of the route, the TEM project fiber is laid on metal masts. The low cost of such a solution, as well as the ability to run as quickly as possible, identify and eliminate cable damage have become a clear advantage, in comparison with laying cables along the bottom of the seas and oceans. In addition, unlike in previous years, when the cable being laid was simply flooded, now all new underwater lines are necessarily laid in sea soil, which made such projects even more expensive and complex. By the way, the reason for this requirement was the frequent breakdowns of optical fiber by the trawls and anchors of ships, one of such incidents in 2008 deprived Egypt of 80% of the Internet channels connecting it to the world.

Europe-Persia Express Gateway (EPEG)

Another example of a successfully functioning IT line passing through the territory of Russia is the EPEG project. The territory of the Russian Federation has become an integral component of laying the line connecting Europe, this time, with the Middle East. Akin to the TEM project, the recently commissioned EPEG line goes partly along the route created more than 150 years ago by telegraph engineers, who connected the capital of Great Britain, London, with its important administrative center in India, Calcutta, with copper wire. EPEG, which is laid from the German city of Frankfurt to Muscat, which in Oman passed through all of central and eastern Europe, as well as the Caucasus region and Iran, completing its journey on the Arabian Peninsula. In the future, this route has every chance of being continued further east,


In addition to existing, successful projects, it has been implemented in Russia; at the moment, new, equally large-scale and promising ones are being developed. Polarnet, in collaboration with TransNeft, is in the final stages of developing a grand infrastructure solution for laying a trans-continental fiber optic ring.

Back in 2002-2003, a plan was developed to create the “Russian Transarctic Cable System” (ROTAKS), according to the plan, in the very near future, the trunk should pass through the Arctic region of the Russian Federation. The main goal of the project is to connect the two world capitals - London, Tokyo and further Shanghai along the shortest route, if small PING may not be so important for ordinary residents of these cities, then for Shanghai, Tokyo and London this parameter is extremely critical. According to the information announced by the designers, the delay of the ROTAX network between customers in London and Tokyo will be only 76.58 milliseconds. It is not difficult to notice that the project is a direct competitor to the laid highway by Arctic Fiber, but according to the stated parameters, the latter loses to ROTAKS. Besides,

Over time, Polarnet found it possible to expand the Arctic project and duplicate the northern line along the southern route, which should pass in the corridor of the already mentioned Trans-Siberian Railway. Thus, the highways will have to take Russia into the IT ring, giving new opportunities for providing cheap and high-quality Internet.

A bit of paranoia

In general, the situation with traffic transit in the modern world is very interesting. Traffic often goes between two clients not along direct lines, but along very non-standard, seemingly at first glance, routes, which naturally also has its own explanation. But if you study in detail the geography of the flows of this very global traffic, you can quite simply identify the main infrastructure nodes through which it travels on our planet.

In light of the espionage revelations of recent years, including thanks to the unforgettable Edward Snowden, the picture of the IT world prompts unambiguous thoughts. The vast majority of European traffic, before entering the world, passes through Britinaya and the United States. When it comes to the wide underwater highways in Asia, a rather small number of them bypass the city-state - ultramodernSingapore . According to the material published by Edward Snowden, the fabulous Singapore has for many decades been an unchanging ally of the United States and the Five Eyes interstate intelligence organization led by it (USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand).

In the indicated direction, the construction of alternative IT highways through the territory of Russia and the launch of traffic bypassing “evil places” can become important not only from an economic, logical, but also political point of view. By connecting Europe with the countries of the Pacific, new land lines can give both business and individuals an extra sense of security when sending confidential information through a network that you yourself know who came up with .

The future relies heavily on the past

Just as farms transform over time into megacities, how forest paths turn into broad highways, modern infrastructure rarely appears on a “bare” spot. In addition to the fact that it is much easier to implement a new project on the basis of ready-made ones, often these very ready-made projects are created in the most suitable or, moreover, the only possible places in a particular territory. When laying the Trans-Siberian Railway in the second half of the 19th century, engineers chose the most rational route that could connect the two Eurasian continents. By cutting tunnels in the rocks, building bridges across the mighty Siberian rivers and deep beams, our predecessors not only improved their age, but also made an invaluable contribution to the future we call today.