A group of scientists at UCL have recently discovered a brand-new way of transferring data through fibre-optic cables, achieving record-breaking broadband speeds in the process.
The new method, which reached unheard-of speeds of 178Tbps (yes, that’s terabits per second), could in theory allow for 222 Ultra HD Blu-rays to be downloaded each second — an incomprehensible number in comparison to even the fastest speeds consumers are used to today.
Though for now it’s only possible in a lab-controlled environment, its creators have every intention of making this speed available to backhaul networks, business and eventually the public too.
UCL scientists, led by Dr Lidia Galdino, made this possible by using newly-tweaked amplifiers to broaden the range of colours the data could travel through in a 25-mile long fibre-optic cable running around the lab.
Fibre-optic cables transmit data through pulses of light (hence the term ‘optic’), so the speed it already transmits can't physically get any faster since it’s already travelling at the speed of light. However, by broadening the colour spectrum of the light that hosts the data, more can fit in at once, and therefore more of it can be transferred in any given timeframe.
This is why internet speed is often referred to as ‘bandwidth’, because it’s more related to the amount of data that can pass through, rather than the actual speed the data is travelling at. It’s also why fibre is ‘faster’ than copper wire broadband, because it has a wider range of the light spectrum and therefore can move larger quantities of data in the same time period.
Take a look at our broadband download speed calculator to get an idea of how quickly you can download TV shows, movies, games and apps with your current internet speed.
We’re still a long way from seeing it in our homes, but that’s only one benefit we could see from it. With the world’s fleet of autonomous vehicles and cities’ use of smart technology dramatically increasing yearly, the next few decades are expected to see an unprecedented demand for connectivity that even 5G and gigabit broadband couldn’t handle.
As a result, it’s very encouraging to see such a game-changing level of internet speed show early signs of becoming available later this century.
While you won’t see speeds like this anytime soon, there are still some incredibly fast broadband packages out there. Compare fibre broadband deals with Uswitch to see what speeds you’re capable of.