Researchers at University College London (UCL) published a paper in the September issue of IEEE showing how they set the new world record for the fastest internet, according to Gizmodo. At a speed of 178 terabits or 178,000,000 megabits per second, their new fiber optics broadband can transfer 222 Ultra HD Blu-rays in a second. The record is a fifth faster than the previous one set by researchers in Japan, and it shows how close we are to even faster, more affordable internet access.
How did they do it? — Compared to the fiber optics in use around the world, the new record doubles capacity by using a wider range of wavelengths and optimizing the overall transmission process, including noise reduction.
Fibers with rare-Earth elements were inserted into the glass core of an optical cable to increase the light’s ability to travel long distances. Meanwhile, discrete Raman amplifier technology improves the power of the signal sent through the fiber optic lines. As a result, the data can move more efficiently with a decreased need for repeaters.
What this means for your internet — Replacing fiber optics infrastructure is extraordinarily more expensive than simply updating the amplifiers within existing cables. Following Gizmodo’s exchange rate of the researchers calculations, new cables would cost approximately $594,000 per 0.62 miles while upgrading amplifiers every 25-62 miles would only cost $21,100. Comparatively, Google’s Faster cable connecting Japan and the U.S.’s West Coast is nearly three times slower and cost $300 million to build.
The ability to perform these cost-effective upgrades would help networks, from cell networks to your home’s broadband, make huge leaps in speed in a short amount of time. Though it’s not clear when this technology might be implemented, the pandemic has put a spotlight on internet infrastructure around the world.
“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,” said lead author Dr. Lidia Galdino, UCL lecturer and Royal Academy of Engineering research fellow, to UCL. “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.”