Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Researchers send data 4.5 million times faster than average home broadband

Researchers at Aston University have achieved a breakthrough in internet data transmission speed, achieving a rate that is 4.5 million times faster than the average home broadband. The rate is the fastest ever sent by opening up specific new wavelength bands that haven’t been used before in fiber optic systems.

The team was able to transfer data at a rate of 301 terabits or 301,000,000 megabits per second, using a single optical fiber. That’s compared to Ofcom’s UK home broadband performance report published in September 2023, which stated that the average broadband speed is just 69.4 Mbit/s megabits per second.

Professor Wladek Forysiak and Dr Ian Phillips from Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies were part of an international team that succeeded in transmitting data at a record-breaking speed. They collaborated with researchers from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan and Nokia Bell Labs in the USA to achieve this feat.

The researchers used optical fibers for data transmission, which are tiny glass tubes that use light to transmit information. Copper cables, which are commonly used for data transmission, cannot match the speed of optical fibers.

The researchers were able to achieve this groundbreaking data transmission speed by opening up new wavelength bands that are not yet used in fiber optic systems. These wavelength bands are equivalent to different colors of light being transmitted down the optical fiber. To access these new wavelength bands, the researchers developed new devices called optical amplifiers and optical gain equalizers. These devices helped them to amplify and equalize the signals being transmitted, which ultimately led to the record-breaking data transmission speed.

Dr Phillips led the development of a management device, or optical processor, at Aston University. He said, “Broadly speaking, data was sent via an optical fiber like a home or office internet connection. However, alongside the commercially available C and L-bands, we used two additional spectral bands called E-band and S-band. Such bands traditionally haven’t been required because the C- and L-bands could deliver the required capacity to meet consumer needs.”

“Over the last few years, Aston University has been developing optical amplifiers that operate in the E-band, which sits adjacent to the C-band in the electromagnetic spectrum but is about three times wider. Before the development of our device, no one had been able to properly emulate the E-band channels in a controlled way.”

“By increasing transmission capacity in the backbone network, our experiment could lead to vastly improved connections for end users,” Professor Forysiak added. “This groundbreaking accomplishment highlights the crucial role of advancing optical fiber technology in revolutionizing communication networks for faster and more reliable data transmission. 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 & commercial value.”

This groundbreaking achievement is not only a major milestone in data transmission technology but also sets a new benchmark for future research in this field. The success of the Aston University team in transmitting data at such high speeds serves as a testament to the potential of optical fiber technology. With the increasing demand for data, innovations like these will be crucial in meeting those demands while also providing a greener solution for our digital future.