DTU Unveils Ultra High Internet Speeds

August 3, 2014 11:04 AM


Do you have really slow internet? Read on for some really exciting news.

Down here in New Zealand, 6Mbps is the highest speed my ISP offers. 6Mbps was better than the 1Mbps I subscribed to back home in India. A recent Speedtest revealed that my ISP provides 8Mbps and that took me over the moon. This meant that my flatmates and I could now stream Arrow and The Block NZ, without having to wait for the other to load the entire show up. We couldn’t believe our eyes as we read that the highest speed now available is 43Tbps. This means more Arrow, The Block NZ, may be some Anger Management and Scandal too.

Researchers from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), made news in 2009 when they achieved 1Tbps. Five years later and they have managed to reach 43Tbps on a single optical fiber with just a single laser transmitter. 43 Tbps = 5.375 Gbps. Imagine transferring the contents of your 1TB hard drive in just 0.2 milliseconds. That ought to blow your mind.

This is definitely not the first time, a feat like this has been attempted. 2011, saw the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology beat the DTU’s record of 2009 at 26Tbps. Karlsruhe was mentioned in DTU’s official press release, reminding the former that the latter obviously beat an unbroken record. While the speed is definitely an eye-popper, what is interesting is DTU’s single laser on a single fibre. Many network demonstrations apparently transmitted over a hundred tbps through multiple fibres. Replicating this might be easy, as this often translate as more speed. Honestly, most internet fibre optic cables use a single laser over a single fibre, thus DTU’s 43Tbps feat may actually be the first thing that could have practical applications. Sure, it will take some time, but I’d rather watch the latest show at the time without having to wait for it to buffer. Imagine downloading a movie in the blink of an eye. I can imagine Google Glass downloading a movie every time I blink if, I can afford it in five years.

Surprisingly, DTU beat Karlsruhe by cheating a little. Although I’ve mentioned the single fibre and single laser before, the laser is passed through a multi-core fibre. A single filament of glass fibre has multiple channels that can carry their own optical signals. The Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) produced optical fibres are DTU’s secret to success. These Japanese fibres are multi-cored with seven cores, to be exact. Karlsruhe managed to achieve 26Tbps over a single core fibre in 2009, but back then, multi-core fibres were hard to manufacture and expensive. This year, issues with the multi-core fibres have been fixed and NTT now plans to push the product into the market.

DTU sure knows how to keep a secret. Except for the use of multi-core fibres, nothing much that goes into the squeezing of 43Tbps has been explained. Spatial Division Multiplexing (SDM) or Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM), a technique that uses varying frequencies of light to delay each signal by a few microseconds avoided signal collisions significantly and could be the basic methods used to achieve this.

The IEEE is probing for options of maxing out the 100Gbps single laser single fibre by 400Gbps or 1Tbps, although it will not see the light of day until 2017 or later. DTU’s 43Tbps sounds distant, but at least there’s hope for really slow ISPs.