Back in 2011 the computers used by the “flash boys” took around five millionths of a second to cut a trade. Today, the data is moving 60 times faster, taking only 84 billionths of a second (nanoseconds). Light can only move 30cm in a nanosecond, which means that HF Traders are bumping up against the physical limitations imposed by the speed of light.
In Europe, HFTs have been scattering towers and cables in an even more secretive manner across Belgium, France and England. These would have gone almost unnoticed were it not for the work of an anthropologist-cum-sleuth called Alexandre Laumonier, who has been “outing” these towers in a blog (Sniper in Mahwah & Friends) and a new book entitled 4. Meanwhile, HFTs are experimenting with shortwave radio and satellite systems, to see if these can save them more nanoseconds. And, as Mackenzie recently explained in a blog post on Tabb Forum, a company called McKay Brothers is even using television frequencies to transmit data across New Jersey.