A recent experiment, conducted by a joint effort of Japan's NTT (News - Alert), Hokkaido University, Fujikura Limited, and the Technical University of Denmark, has just shattered a previous speed record by nearly a factor of three, as a single strand of optic fiber plays host to incredible new data transmission speeds, elevating the record from 305 terabits to one full petabit.
While this new record isn't quite as impressive as some might have liked--higher raw speeds have actually been achieved in laboratory settings--the issue of distance comes into play at those higher speeds. The signal can actually experience what's known as "rapid distance attenuation" at higher speeds and fall apart. Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) actually managed to get a signal up to 100 Pbps.km, but needed to use a system of 155 lasers operating at 100 Gbps each to get there. The newer NTT demonstration, meanwhile, needed only 12 lasers, but could get them operating at 84.5 Tbps, which represents substantially greater efficiency and a much better potential to be put into play.
Additionally, NTT designed a special kind of fiber for the demonstration that puts 12 cores in just one strand. While the idea of multicore fiber isn't exactly new or special, but what NTT did with it was. Standard hexagonal core layouts, it was explained, wouldn't work with this experiment as crosstalk would have been an issue. Thus, a new kind of layout was needed, as well as the addition of custom fan-in and fan-out devices to accommodate that fiber.
It's easy to wonder what any of this has to do with a regular person. After all, it's not like this is going to mean better Internet access any time soon, or higher--if any--bandwidth caps. But what it does represent is a significant possibility for major improvement. After all, a signal like that could reportedly send out the equivalent of 5,000 HD videos every second, and with that kind of capability, the issue of excessive bandwidth use would sort of fall by the wayside. It would, however, take a significant investment to bring out that kind of fiber capability for people to actually use, but for those companies that actually staged that investment, it would likely pay off in the form of better PR, more satisfied customers, and great marketplace leverage to woo customers away from competing firms.
Naturally, this is still at the lab demonstration point, so seeing it in wide use isn't likely any time soon. But seeing the potential of future Internet traffic is no less impressive for its admittedly nebulous nature.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman