The fastest internet speed in the world has been clocked at an incredible 178 terabits per second (Tb/s) – fast enough to download the entire Netflix library in under a second. Engineers in the UK and Japan have developed new ways to modulate light before it’s beamed down optical fibers, allowing for much wider bandwidths than usual.
That new top speed is an insane feat. It’s 17,800 times faster than the current fastest internet connections available to consumers – 10 Gb/s in parts of places like Japan, the US and New Zealand. Even NASA can’t compete, with its 400 Gb/s ESnet.
It also leaves other experimental devices in the dust, including a photonic chip developed in Australia that clocked a still-impressive 44 Tb/s just a few months ago, and beats the previous record holder – a Japanese team with 150 Tb/s – by almost 20 percent.
“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 utilize more efficiently the existing infrastructure, making better use of optical fiber bandwidth and enabling a world record transmission rate of 178 terabits a second,” says Lidia Galdino, lead researcher on the study.
To hit these speeds, engineers at University College London (UCL), Xtera and KDDI Research developed new technologies to essentially squeeze more information through the existing fiber optic infrastructure. Most are currently capable of a bandwidth of up to 4.5 THz, with some new technologies approaching 9 THz. The team’s new system, however, raises the bar to 16.8 THz.
To get this much extra “room,” the researchers develop new Geometric Shaping (GS) constellations. Basically, these are patterns of signal combinations that alter the phase, brightness and polarization of the wavelengths, in order to fit more information into light without the wavelengths interfering with each other. This was done by combining different existing amplifier technologies into a hybrid system.
Perhaps the best news is that because it uses the fiber optic cables already in place in many parts of the world, this technology could be integrated into existing infrastructure relatively easily. Instead of replacing miles and miles of cable, it would only require upgrades to the amplifiers, which appear every 40 to 100 km (25 to 62 mi) or so.
The research was published in the journal IEEE Photonics Technology Letters.