Conventional optical fibres may no longer be able to accommodate the growing demand for data services

New optical fibre could solve Internet capacity crunch

A new type of optical fibre has been used to transmit 255 Terabits of data per second, about 21 times more than what is currently available in commercial communication networks.

Setting a new world record in data transmission, the achievement of researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands and the University of Central Florida (CREOL), USA, has been described in the prestigious Nature Photonics journal.

Unlike current optical fibres, which only have one core through which the light can travel, the new fibre is composed of seven different cores. Researchers have compared the improvement achieved by the new technology to switching from a one-way road to a seven-lane highway.

In addition to the horizontal level, the data can also travel in three vertical layers, further increasing the transmission capacity. The record gross transmission throughput achieved of about 255 Terabits per second is more than 20 times greater than the current 4-8 Terabits per second standard.

“At less than 200 microns in diameter, this fibre does not take noticeably more space than conventional fibres already deployed,” said Chigo Okonkwo, assistant professor of electro-optical communications at the Eindhoven University of Technology who led the research group.

“These remarkable results definitely give the possibility to achieve Petabits per second transmission.”

Developing technology for transmission of greater amounts of data than is currently available is crucial for addressing the rocketing demand for data services.

The widespread use of connected devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptop computers, popularity of video streaming and voice and data services, together with the requirement for a constant Internet access have brought the world’s telecommunication networks on the verge of a capacity crunch.

The existing optical fibres are nearing their limits and the expert community is well aware a new technology is urgently needed to avoid a system collapse and satisfy the never-ending demand.

The EU-funded Horizon 2020 research programme has set developing technology for transmission of Petabits of data per second as one of its main targets.

The work of Okonkwo and his colleagues was also funded by the European Commission as part of the ModeGAP project through the 7th Framework Programme.

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