BRIT engineers have smashed the world record for the fastest internet speed, clocking a monster 178 terabytes (178,000 gigabytes) per second.
That’s quick enough to download 22million HD photos in less than a second, or the entire Netflix library in under half a minute.
Researchers at University College London, where the tech was developed, say it’s double the capacity of any system currently deployed in the world.
It’s 17,800 times faster than the speediest connections available to consumers – roughly 10 gigabytes (GB) per second in parts of Japan.
The team hopes faster broadband technology will help keep the price of rapid web access down for netizens of the future.
“Internet traffic has increased exponentially over the last 10 years,” said Dr Lidia Galdino, lead author of a new study describing the achievement.
“This whole growth in data demand is related to the cost per bit going down.”
He added: “The development of new technologies is crucial to maintaining this trend towards lower costs.”
At 178 terabyes per second, the new record, demonstrated in a UCL lab, is 20 per cent faster than the previous world record, held by a team in Japan.
If that data connection were wired to your home broadband, it would give you the power to download more than 220 4K-quality movies in a second.
The entire storage capacity of YouTube, thought to be around 400,000 terabytes, would take just 37 minutes to download.
It would take just 20 seconds to gobble up the entire library of Netflix, believed to take up about 3,600 terabytes of space.
Experts achieved the feat by transmitting data through a much wider range of colours of light than is typically used in optical fibre broadband.
According to UCL, the benefit of the system is that it can be deployed on existing infrastructure by simply upgrading parts of the network.
Table of Contents
What is 4K, Ultra HD and UHD?
Here’s an easy guide to what 4K means…
- 4K, Ultra HD and UHD are all different names for the same type of TV screen. 4K refers to the number of pixels on your TV screen – or the “image resolution”
- The pixels are the tiny dots of colour that make up the image you see on your telly. A pixellated image is one where the pixels are really obvious, because there aren’t many. But images with lots of pixels – like a 4K movie – generally look sharper and clearer
- A true 4K screen has 4096 x 2160 pixels. That means on your TV screen there are 3840 pixels across, and 2160 pixels vertically. That’s roughly 8.3 million pixels on the display in total
- 4K gets it’s name because it’s got four times the number of pixels as a standard Full HD TV
- Full HD (or 1080p) screens have 1920 pixels across, and 1080 pixels going upwards – for around two million pixels in total. So 4K just means your TV has many more pixels on the screen compared to a more common Full HD display
- Ultra HD, or UHD, is basically the same as 4K. If you buy a UHD telly in a shop, you’ll be able to watch 4K content on it with no bother
- But there is a small difference. Almost every TV you ever buy has an aspect ratio of 16:9. That means for every 16 pixels horizontally, there are 9 vertically
- True 4K footage doesn’t quite fit in with that ratio, so you won’t often find TVs with 4096 x 2160 pixels. Instead, to fit with the 16:9 ratio, most 4K TVs will have 3840 x 2160 pixels instead
- If it doesn’t make sense, grab a calculator and divide 2160 by 9. Then multiply it by 16, and you’ll get 3840. That’s the aspect ratio working its magic. So when you see an Ultra HD TV, it just means it’s a 4K image with slightly fewer vertical pixels
- If you try watching a 4K video on a non-4K TV, the video will still play – but it won’t be in 4K quality. To watch a 4K video in 4K quality, you’ll need to fork out for a 4K TV. Similarly, if you’re watching standard or HD footage on a 4K TV, it won’t magically become 4K quality
- Some TVs promise “4K upscaling”, which converts your standard or HD footage to near-4K quality. This works by using software to guess what colours would fill the extra empty pixels missing in HD footage, and then filling them in. This creates a 4K-like effect, but it’s not true 4K
The technology is a long way off getting into the hands of consumers but could be used in laboratories that churn through lots of data.
It could also aid supercomputers designed to process data in the fight to discover new life-saving drugs, or predict the weather.
Dr Galdino added that the system could also pave the way for as yet unthought-of applications “that will transform people’s lives”.
The research was published in IEEE Photonics Technology Letters.
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