cISP: A Speed-of-Light Internet Service Provider


Debopam Bhattacherjee, ETH Zürich; Waqar Aqeel, Duke University; Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, UC Irvine and VMware Research; Ilker Nadi Bozkurt, Duke University; William Sentosa, UIUC; Muhammad Tirmazi, Harvard University; Anthony Aguirre, UC Santa Cruz; Balakrishnan Chandrasekaran, VU Amsterdam; P. Brighten Godfrey, UIUC and VMware; Gregory Laughlin, Yale University; Bruce Maggs, Duke University and Emerald Technologies; Ankit Singla, ETH Zürich


Low latency is a requirement for a variety of interactive network applications. The Internet, however, is not optimized for latency. We thus explore the design of wide-area networks that move data at nearly the speed of light in vacuum. Our cISP design augments the Internet’s fiber with free-space microwave wireless connectivity over paths very close to great-circle paths. cISP addresses the fundamental challenge of simultaneously providing ultra-low latency while accounting for numerous practical factors ranging from transmission tower availability to packet queuing. We show that instantiations of cISP across the United States and Europe would achieve mean latencies within 5% of that achievable using great-circle paths at the speed of light, over medium and long distances. Further, using experiments conducted on a nearly-speed-of-light algorithmic trading network, together with an analysis of trading data at its end points, we show that microwave networks are reliably faster than fiber networks even in inclement weather. Finally, we estimate that the economic value of such networks would substantially exceed their expense.

NSDI '22 Open Access Sponsored by
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {276970,
author = {Debopam Bhattacherjee and Waqar Aqeel and Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi and Ilker Nadi Bozkurt and William Sentosa and Muhammad Tirmazi and Anthony Aguirre and Balakrishnan Chandrasekaran and P. Brighten Godfrey and Gregory Laughlin and Bruce Maggs and Ankit Singla},
title = {{cISP}: A {Speed-of-Light} Internet Service Provider},
booktitle = {19th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-27-4},
address = {Renton, WA},
pages = {1115--1133},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = apr,

Presentation Video