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Boffins at Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have managed to transmit 1.84 petabits of data per second over a single 37-core 7.9km fibre optic cable. That's over five times the previous record (319 terabits per second).
The new transmission record - 1.84 million gigabits per second via a single light source - is fast enough to carry all the world's Internet traffic in a single fibre-optic cable.
The record was achieved using a single laser and a single optical chip - a power-efficient, space-efficient and cost-effective approach.
This new method reduces the chance of a 'capacity crunch' happening when full-fibre broadband causes a surge in demand for domestic and international backhaul.
When Will Faster Speeds Reach You?
You're never going to experience throughput of 1.84 petabits per second. But you will benefit.
Some of your Internet traffic travels via subsea cables and the 'backhaul' circuits linking major UK cities. Advances in optical networking technology will boost the capacity of those links.
Closer to home, there are multi-billion pound programmes that will improve local broadband speeds by rolling out full-fibre networks.
Around 42% of UK sites can order gigabit fibre broadband right now. Future upgrades will double availability.
The optical equipment being installed will support downstream speeds of 2.5Gbps or 10Gbps. Commercial considerations and contention will cut those download speeds to around 220Mbps to 1Gbps, typically.
This is still lightning fast compared to ADSL2+ or FTTC.
According to OFCOM's Home Broadband Performance Report, published in October 2022, the median UK broadband download speed increased 18% in the year to April 2022 - rising from 50.4 Mbps to 59.4 Mbps The upload speed also increased from 9.8 Mbps to 10.7 Mbps.
That's not because ADSL or FTTC got faster. It's because broadband users switched from ADSL to FTTC, from FTTC to FTTP and from FTTC to DOCSIS 3.1-based cable broadband. These shifts dragged up the median speeds.
For most broadband users, a key bottleneck holding back their speed is local infrastructure. Once full-fibre networks have been rolled out, that bottleneck will shift to domestic and international backhaul circuits. That's where the petabit speeds will come in handy.
The optical advances made by researchers will allow ever more data to be stuffed down existing fibre-optic cables and ducts. This will lead to huge falls in backhaul pricing and Internet Transit pricing.
Although the latest optical kit will start in the highest-capacity circuits, over time it will inch closer to homes and businesses, as the equipment gets cheaper and smaller.
Why This Matters To Business
The cost of getting private gigabit-speed connections to public clouds such as AWS, Azure and Google is likely to fall.
Employees that work from home will increasingly have home broadband able to support high-definition Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings.
It's easy to look at the huge progress that's been made on speeds and assume that the transition to higher speeds is largely complete. However, that's not likely to be true. Although our connections seem blisteringly fast by historical standards and are more than sufficient to meet our current needs, speed upgrades create additional demand.
Unsung researchers, such as those beavering away with lasers and fibre-optic cables in Denmark and Sweden, are doing their bit to make all our connections faster.