Researchers set data transmission speed records over fiber optics

With the popularity of web-connected devices and multimedia streaming services rapidly increasing, broadband internet bandwidth is quickly becoming a precious commodity. However, two separate research firms have found ways to enhance fiber optic technology and increase data capacities to unprecedented levels.

Dayou Qian of Princeton-based NEC Laboratories and Jun Sakaguchi of Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology each demonstrated world record-setting fiber optic data transmission speeds of over 100 terabits of information per second at the Optical Fiber Communications Conference in Los Angeles last month. Even more impressive is the fact that the data was being sent across a single fiber in both cases.

Researchers set data transmission speed records over fiber optics

“That’s enough to deliver three solid months of HD video- or the contents of 250 double-sided Blu-ray discs,” writes Jeff Hecht of New Scientist.

Qian reportedly achieved a data-transmission rate of 101.7 terabits per second through 165 kilometres of fiber by “squeezing light pulses from 370 separate lasers into the pulse received by the receiver.”

“Each laser emitted its own narrow sliver of the infrared spectrum, and each contained several polarities, phases and amplitudes of light waves to code each packet of information,” notes Hecht.

Sakaguchi used a different method to achieve a similar result. The single fiber contained seven “light-guiding cores,” each transmitting 15.6 terabits per second. The design yielded 109 terabits per second total.

To put this all in perspective, Hecht notes that one of the “world’s busiest routes” for data between Washington DC and New York City currently only delivers “a few terabytes per second.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll see faster broadband in your home anytime soon. As we reported just last week, lack of demand and high costs may delay high-speed fiber connection for most users for at least a decade.

Large corporate data centers, however, may implement the technology much more quickly. Ting Wang, Qian’s colleague at NEC Laboratories, believes that companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google will be the first to upgrade to such speeds, though he did not say when that might happen.