World's fastest internet speed recorded, researchers claim
Australian researchers have successfully tested and recorded what is claimed to be the world’s fastest internet data speed from a single optical chip — capable of downloading 1000 high-definition movies in a split second.
The research team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities were able to achieve a data speed of 44.2 Tbps from a single light source. Described in the journal Nature Communications, this technology has the capacity to support the high-speed internet connections of 1.8 million households in Melbourne at the same time, and billions across the world during peak periods.
Demonstrations of this magnitude are usually confined to a laboratory. But for this study, researchers achieved these quick speeds using existing communications infrastructure where they were able to efficiently load-test the network.
They used a new device that replaces 80 lasers with one single piece of equipment known as a micro-comb, which is smaller and lighter than existing telecommunications hardware. It was planted into and load-tested using existing infrastructure, which mirrors that used by the nbn. It is said to be the first time any micro-comb has been used in a field trial and possesses the highest amount of data produced from a single optical chip.
“We’re currently getting a sneak-peak of how the infrastructure for the internet will hold up in two to three years’ time, due to the unprecedented number of people using the internet for remote work, socialising and streaming. It’s really showing us that we need to be able to scale the capacity of our internet connections,” said Dr Bill Corcoran, co-lead author of the study from Monash University.
“What our research demonstrates is the ability for fibres that we already have in the ground, thanks to the nbn project, to be the backbone of communications networks now and in the future. We’ve developed something that is scalable to meet future needs.
“And it’s not just Netflix we’re talking about here — it’s the broader scale of what we use our communication networks for. This data can be used for self-driving cars and future transportation and it can help the medicine, education, finance and e-commerce industries, as well as enable us to read with our grandchildren from kilometres away.”
To illustrate the impact optical micro-combs have on optimising communication systems, researchers installed 76.6 km of ‘dark’ optical fibres between RMIT’s Melbourne City Campus and Monash University’s Clayton Campus. The optical fibres were provided by Australia’s Academic Research Network (AARNet).
Within these fibres, researchers placed the micro-comb — contributed by Swinburne University, as part of a broad international collaboration — which acts like a rainbow made up of hundreds of high-quality infrared lasers from a single chip. Each ‘laser’ has the capacity to be used as a separate communications channel. Researchers were able to send maximum data down each channel, simulating peak internet usage, across 4 THz of bandwidth.
RMIT’s Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell, co-leader of the research team, said reaching the optimum data speed of 44.2 Tbps showed the potential of existing Australian infrastructure. The future ambition of the project is to scale up the current transmitters from hundreds of gigabytes per second towards tens of terabytes per second without increasing size, weight or cost.
“Long term, we hope to create integrated photonic chips that could enable this sort of data rate to be achieved across existing optical fibre links with minimal cost,” Distinguished Professor Mitchell said.
“Initially, these would be attractive for ultrahigh-speed communications between data centres. However, we could imagine this technology becoming sufficiently low cost and compact that it could be deployed for commercial use by the general public in cities across the world.”
Research co-leader Professor David Moss, Director of the Optical Sciences Centre at Swinburne, added, “In the 10 years since I co-invented micro-comb chips, they have become an enormously important field of research.
“It is truly exciting to see their capability in ultrahigh-bandwidth fibre-optic telecommunications coming to fruition. This work represents a world record for bandwidth down a single optical fibre from a single chip source, and represents an enormous breakthrough for part of the network which does the heaviest lifting. Micro-combs offer enormous promise for us to meet the world’s insatiable demand for bandwidth.”
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