We're in for an information revolution.
Engineers in Japan just shattered the world record for the fastest internet speed, achieving a data transmission rate of 319 Terabits per second (Tb/s), according to a paper presented at the International Conference on Optical Fiber Communications in June. The new record was made on a line of fibers more than 1,864 miles (3,000 km) long. And, crucially, it is compatible with modern-day cable infrastructure.
This could literally change everything.
The new data transfer method breaks signals up into various wavelengths
Note well: we can't stress enough how fast this transmission speed is. It's nearly double the previous record of 178 Tb/s, which was set in 2020. And it's seven times the speed of the earlier record of 44.2 Tb/s, set with an experimental photonic chip. NASA itself uses a comparatively primitive speed of 400 Gb/s, and the new record soars impossibly high above what ordinary consumers can use (the fastest of which maxes out at 10 Gb/s for home internet connections).
As if there's no limit to this monumental achievement, the record was accomplished with fiber optic infrastructure that already exists (but with a few advanced add-ons). The research team used four "cores", which are glass tubes housed within the fibers that transmit the data, instead of the conventional standard core. The signals are then broken down into several wavelengths sent at the same time, employing a technique known as wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM). To carry more data, the researchers used a rarely-employed third "band", extending the distance via several optical amplification technologies.
The new system begins its transmission process with a 552-channel comb laser fired at various wavelengths. This is then sent through dual polarization modulation, such that some wavelengths go before others, to generate multiple signal sequences — each of which is in turn directed into one of the four cores within the optical fiber. Data transmitted via this system moves through 43.5 miles (70 km) of optical fiber, until it hits optical amplifiers to boost the signal for its long journey. But there's even more complexity: The signal runs through two novel kinds of fiber amplifiers, one doped in thulium, the other in erbium, before it continues on its way, in a conventional process called Raman amplification.
The world's data infrastructure is in for a revolution
After this, signal sequences are sent into another segment of optical fiber, and then the entire process repeats, enabling the researchers to send data over a staggering distance of 1,864.7 miles (3,001 km). Crucially, the novel four-core optical fiber possesses the same diameter as a conventional single-core fiber, bracketing the protective cladding around it. In other words, integrating the new method into existing infrastructure will be far simpler than other technological overhauls to societal information systems.
This is what makes the new data transfer speed record really shine. Not only have the researchers in Japan blown the 2020 record out of the proverbial water, but they've done so with a novel engineering method capable of integrating into modern-day fiber optic infrastructure with minimal effort. We're nearing an age where the internet of the twenty-teens and early 2020s will look barbaric by comparison, in terms of signal speed and data transfer. It's an exciting time to be alive.