24th August 2020
New fastest Internet speed: 178 Tbps
Scientists at University College London have achieved a data transmission rate of 178 terabits per second (tbps) – a speed at which you could download the entire Netflix library in less than a second.
The breakthrough involved a collaboration between University College London (UCL) and two companies, Xtera and KDDI Research. The technology used a much wider range of colours of light, or wavelengths, than is typically found in optical fibre. Most of today's infrastructure has a limited spectrum bandwidth of 4.5THz, with 9THz commercial systems entering the market. The researchers in this study, however, used a bandwidth of 16.8THz.
The hyperfast speed – around three million times faster than conventional broadband – was made possible by combining different "amplifier" technologies to boost signals over this wider bandwidth, and then maximised by developing new Geometric Shaping (GS) constellations. The latter are signal combinations that make best use of the phase, brightness and polarisation properties of light, manipulating the properties of each individual wavelength.
The new record, which demonstrated transmission over a distance of 40 km (25 mi), is a fifth faster than the previous world record, and close to the theoretical limit of data transmission proposed by American mathematician Claude Shannon in 1949. A paper describing the study appears in the journal IEEE Photonics Technology Letters.
"While current state-of-the-art cloud data-centre interconnections are capable of transporting up to 35 terabits a second, we are working with new technologies that utilise more efficiently the existing infrastructure – making better use of optical fibre bandwidth and enabling a world record transmission rate of 178 terabits per second," said Dr Lidia Galdino, lead author and a lecturer at UCL.
With much of the world in lockdown due to COVID-19, demand for broadband communication has soared, with some Internet service providers experiencing as much as a 60% increase in traffic. As such, the capacity of broadband networks has become even more critical.
"But independent of the COVID-19 crisis, Internet traffic has increased exponentially over the last 10 years and this whole growth in data demand is related to the cost per bit going down," Dr Galdino added. "The development of new technologies is crucial to maintaining this trend towards lower costs while meeting future data rate demands that will continue to increase, with as yet unthought-of applications that will transform people's lives."