HFT On HF, You Can’t Beat It For Latency

If you are a radio enthusiast of A Certain Age, you may well go misty-eyed from time to time with memories of shortwave listening in decades past. Countries across the world operated their own propaganda radio stations, and you could hear Radio Moscow’s take on world events, the BBC World Service responding, and Radio Tirana proudly announcing that every Albanian village now had a telephone. Many of those shortwave broadcast stations are now long gone, but if you imagine the HF spectrum is dead, think again. An unexpected find in an industrial park near Chicago led to an interesting look at the world of high-frequency trading, or HFT, and how they have moved to using shortwave links when everyone else has abandoned them, because of the unparalleled low latency they offer when communicating across the world.

Our intrepid tower-hunter is [KE9YQ], who was out cycling and noticed a particularly unusual structure adorned with a set of HF beams. These are the large directional antennas of the type you might otherwise expect to see on the roof of an embassy or in the backyard of a well-heeled radio amateur, and were particularly unusual in this otherwise unexciting part of America. There followed an interesting process of tracking down the site’s owners via the FCC permits for its operation, leading to the deduction of its purpose. With other antenna-hunters on the lookout for corresponding sites elsewhere in the world, it seems that this unusual global network hiding in plain sight could soon be revealed.

Unsurprisingly we’ve not covered many shortwave HFT stories. There are however other higher-latency ways to cross the world on HF.

Via SWLing Post, and thanks [W6MOQ] for the tip.

11 thoughts on “HFT On HF, You Can’t Beat It For Latency

    1. That is handled by using short pre-arranged symbols. In high frequency trading, you don’t need to transmit a lot of information – the timing is critical when you’re trying to make money out of tiny fluctuations in the market price on the scale of seconds.

      So if you’re already targeted in on a stock, all you have to do is send one character “buy/sell” symbols across. Beats the hell out of the alternative of going through a 100 ms delay through the local internet operator.

  1. There are several ISM bands in the SW band which don’t suffer the same line of sight restrictions as the usual UHF suspects. Don’t expect big data rates though, noise is a lot higher from distant sources and the antennas will be several orders of magnitude bigger, so while the technology to transmit and receive is easier and more forgiving (yes you can even transmit straight out of a micro controller I/O pin) don’t expect many people to move off UHF any time soon.

  2. Interesting profession for a physicist I recall reading one time when reading about neutrino studies for long distance communication of which last I read have really slow baud rates and I’d guess latency… though I have to read into more how they’re made since I didn’t get that far into studies. I thought proprietary lasers or circular polarized light networks were the latest trend… cool article insight… proprietary HF systems for HFT.

  3. Given that HFT is basically a side-channel attack on the economy, how long until we see a guerila war against these signals? A MitM-esque attack is unlikely since the signals are almost certainly encrypted, but a DoS would be trivial…

    1. Is a tool or weapon used in economic warfare. Like most regulation… the regulators seem to be on overpaid social security with better benefits than the disabled and elderly with more resources for use in enforcement when wanted to be performed for mafia retaliation purposes typically like most war criminals militarizing or para-militarizing civil servant roles and responsibilities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.