How’s your internet working these days? At a recent conference, researchers from Japan demonstrated a whopping data transmission rate of 319 Terabits per second (Tb/s). Remarkably, the transmission was carried out over a long distance (3001 km / 1864 miles) and using technology that is already available today.
A minute of footage, in high definition, takes about 100 Megabytes. That means that with this speed, you could download around 5,300 hours of footage every second. You could download the entire Spotify library in a few seconds. Wikipedia, you’d download in 0.01 seconds.
This speed is almost double the previous record of 178 Tb/s, and almost seven times the earlier record of 44.2 Tb/s. Meanwhile, NASA’s internet tops out at 91 Gb/s (1 Tb = 1,000 Gb = 1,000,000 Mb) and the fastest home internet you can get is about 10 Gb/s. We at ZME feel fortunate to be working with a 1 Gb/s connection.
The record was achieved with infrastructure that already exists, though researchers did add a few pieces of key equipment. The team used fiber-optic equipped with four “cores” — glass tubes within the cable — instead of the standard one core. To amplify the speed, the researchers divided the signal into different wavelengths. The key innovation seems to be that they employed a rarely-used band of wavelengths.
“In this demonstration, in addition to the C and L-bands, typically used for high-data-rate, long-haul transmission, we utilize the transmission bandwidth of the S-band, which has not yet been used for further than single-span transmission,” the researchers write in the study.
With more bands, researchers were able to take the normal data sending process (which starts with a “comb” laser fired at different wavelengths), and extend it over a much longer distance. After 70 km (43.5 miles), the signal was boosted with optical amplifiers. But the researchers didn’t use regular boosters. They used two novel types of fiber optic amplifies: one doped in thulium and the other in erbium — both materials have been used as boosters before. This amplification process is called Raman amplification. After this, the process is repeated on and on, enabling the signal to span the whopping 3,000 km distance.
Although the researchers did implement a few innovations, the whole structure uses the same diameter as the conventional, single-core fiber optic — which means conventional cables can be replaced with these novel ones. This would make it much easier to transition to a new type of infrastructure.
“The standard cladding diameter, 4-core optical fiber can be cabled with existing equipment, and it is hoped that such fibers can enable practical high data-rate transmission in the near-term, contributing to the realization of the backbone communications system.”
It remains to be seen whether the results will be confirmed, and just how expensive it would be to implement, but given the huge increase in speed, it’s bound to catch on, especially in tech-savvy countries like Japan. Soon enough, existing internet speeds will soon look primitive.
So, what would you use 319 Terabits per Second for?