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The breakthrough uses fibre-optic technology

As many of us know, the frustrations of slow internet downloads can be more than just a minor inconvenience. British researchers have discovered a way to send data at 50,000 times the average broadband speed, which could make slow downloads a thing of the past. Scientists at the University College of London have developed equipment that utilises fibre-optic technology that is able to send 1.125 terabits (Tb) per second (144 GB per second or 0.140625 TB).

These world record data transfer speeds are enough to download entire Television Series at High Definition quality in a matter of seconds. According the researchers, this discovery, apart from its time saving aspects, has the potential of re-defining and revolutionising broadband networks and usher in a new generation of high-capacity communication systems.

The break-though was achieved by utilising similar fibre-optic technology that is used to send light signals through the thousands of kilometres of cables that create the broadband networks of today. By sending 15 pulses of light at different frequencies all at once, a “super-channel” was created which allowed researchers to send information at much faster speeds. A special receiver is then used to capture the wide range of frequencies and then process them.

The technique is commonly used to split up wireless signals but to date has not been used in fixed internet connections. Even the fastest state-of-the-art fibre-optic cables used by broadband companies today can achieve speeds of just 100 gigabits per second (12.5 GB) – less than one-tenth what the UCL researchers found.

This ultimately resulted in us achieving the greatest information rate ever recorded using a single receiver,” Dr Maher said.

Although distance and network signal deterioration mean most consumers are unlikely to see connections at the speeds found in the laboratory, UCL’s Professor Polina Bayvel said if the new design were used instead of current technology, it would mean home broadband speeds more than 10 times faster.

A high-capacity digital communications infrastructure underpins the internet and is essential to all aspects of the digital economy and everyday lives,” Bayvel said.

The technology is not yet commercially available but the UCL researchers now plan to test it to see if it can successfully carry data across the thousands of kilometres of optical fibres that cross the country. Although this discovery is centred on The UK broadband systems, the integration of this kind of technology into the commercial environment could have a much greater global impact and see major upgrades of communication systems around the world.

Information taken in part from

Official Journal Article Citation: Maher, R. et al. Increasing the information rates of optical communications via coded modulation: a study of transceiver performance. Sci. Rep. 6, 21278; doi: 10.1038/srep21278 (2016).

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