Internet speed record clocks in at 4.5 million times faster than UK broadband

An international research team has recorded the fastest data transmission ever using a single optical fiber and shows just how quick the process can get using current materials.

In the UK, according to a report  by regulatory group Ofcom published in September 2023, the average broadband speed in the country is about 70 megabits per second (Mb/s). To record the highest-speed data transmission in previous years engineers have used multiple fiber optic strands. Now, researchers at Aston University in the UK, in collaboration with researchers from Nokia Bell Labs in the US and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan, have managed to pass 301 TB/s through a single standard fiber optic cable.

They achieved this feat by using additional wavelength bands which exist in fiber optic cables but are currently not used for transmission, setting a world record for data sent this way. Currently, fiber optic transmissions rely on the C- and L-bands. But the research team figured out a way to send stable data through the co-existing E- and S-bands for a major speed boost.

To stabilise the transmission through these additional bands, the team developed new types of optical amplifiers and optical gain equalisers, pieces of equipment that boost and adjust the beams of data-carrying light streams that travel through fiber optic cables. The technique uses already available, but unused capacity in the cables, and the researchers feel the solution could be an affordable and ecologically friendly way to open up more lanes on the information superhighway.

Wladek Forysiak , researcher from Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies, said: "Growing system capacity by using more of the available spectrum – not just the conventional C-band but also other bands such as the L, S, and now E-bands can help to keep the cost of providing this bandwidth down. It is also a 'greener solution' than deploying more, newer fibers and cables since it makes greater use of the existing deployed fiber network, increasing its capacity to carry data and prolonging its useful life and commercial value."

The work has been detailed in a paper published in Optics Letters, and presented at the European Conference on Optimal Communications. 

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