Laser brings 26Tbps speed to fibre

Fibre speeds

Whilst UK broadband providers are fighting over 100Mbps connections, German researchers have broken through speed barriers with their latest discovery.

In a study from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the team managed to achieve data transmissions of 26 terabits per second (Tbps) over optical fibre, doubling their own highest achievement from last year.

"Optical transmission systems with [Tbps] single-channel line rates no longer seem to be too far-fetched," said the study, published in the Nature Photonics journal this week.

"New services such as cloud computing, three-dimensional high-definition television and virtual-reality applications require unprecedented optical channel bandwidths."

Optical transmission systems with Tbps single-channel line rates no longer seem to be too far-fetched

The key to the triumph was Fourier transform technology. It enabled the researchers to separate hundreds of colours (325) and send them as individual streams via a laser down the fibre. This increased the speed of data transmission exponentially, compared to previous attempts of sending all the strands together in one torrent.

The Fourier transform can then be reversed at the other end of the cable to return information into a form usable by the receiver.

Wolfgang Freude, an author of the paper with the less than catchy title of "26 Tbit s1 line-rate super-channel transmission utilising all-optical fast Fourier transform processing" told the BBC whilst 100Tbps speeds had been previously achieved, they had used far more power and pricier equipment.

"The problem was they didn't have just one laser, they had something like 370 lasers, which is an incredibly expensive thing," he said. "If you can imagine 370 lasers, they fill racks and consume several kilowatts of power."

By making the technology consume less power and cost as little as possible, it makes the option of bringing it to market in commercial products a lot more feasible.

"Think of all the tremendous progress in silicon photonics," he added.

"Nobody could have imagined 10 years ago that nowadays it would be so common to integrate relatively complicated optical circuits on to a silicon chip."

You can read the paper here.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.