New Internet Cable Brings Unbelievable Speeds

John Lister's picture

Researchers say they used a single five-mile cable to transmit twice the amount of data that's currently used by the entire Internet. While it could one day mean faster connections for users, the main benefit of the research could be more energy-efficient data centers.

The project involved the Technical University of Denmark and the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. They explored the way most high-speed data connections today involve encoding signals to transmit as light.

The key was combining a single laser with a specially-designed optical chip. This breaks the light into 223 different colors, with the light frequencies at regular intervals. The special chip is known as a frequency comb, an analogy where each light frequency is a comb tooth. (Source:

The sheer number of combinations of the 223 different colors allows for far more efficient encoding and transmission of the data signals.

60 Million Home Equivalent

In the testing, the researchers achieved a transmission speed of 1.8 Petabits per second. To put that in perspective, the US currently defines broadband as a download of at least 25 Megabits per second. That means the researcher's cable carried the same amount of data that would be used by 60 million homes running such a connection at full speed.

The researchers also believe that the concept could be scaled up further using amplification that didn't affect signal quality. In principle the same approach could achieve 100 Petabits per second.

The approach isn't likely to make much difference to individual users any time soon. That's partly a matter a cost and partly the fact that such speeds are far in excess of what it's even possible to conceive of any home or office using.

Less Space, Less Power

Instead the real benefit is likely to be efficiency in connecting data between key points of the Internet such as data centers and servers. The speeds achieved with a single laser and chip in the tests would require more than a thousand lasers using today's standard technology.

In another comparison, the researchers claim that while their test used a device the size of a matchbox, existing technology would require 8,251 equivalent-sized devices to get the same combined speed. (Source:

That could not only mean less resources needed for data centers, but also less energy used in cooling equipment to stop it overheating.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you welcome such research? Are you more concerned with the speeds available to consumers? Do you give much thought to the environmental impact of the Internet?

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