Breakthrough Enables Downloads 50,000 Times Faster Than 'Superfast' Broadband

British researchers simulated download speeds 50,000 times faster than ‘superfast’ 24 megabits per second (Mbps) broadband, breaking a world record. This could have profound ramifications for the business and consumer market.

Fibre and network cables image from Shutterstock

The University College London team achieved speeds of 1.125 terabits per second (Tbps), the highest throughput ever recorded using a single receiver.

To put that in perspective, the National Broadband Network is promising to deliver download speeds of 25Mbps to all Australians by 2020. One terabit is a million megabits, making the speeds in the study 45,000 times faster than the NBN target speed.

Other commercial networks — and other countries — have faster speeds than what NBN is promising, but nothing like what the researchers have achieved.

“While current state-of-the-art commercial optical transmission systems are capable of receiving single channel data rates of up to 100 gigabits per second (or 100,000Mbps ), we are working with sophisticated equipment in our lab to design the next generation core networking and communications systems that can handle data signals at rates in excess of 1Tbps,” said the project’s lead researcher Dr Robert Maher.

The UCL team used 15 super-fast optical fibre channels and a single receiver. However they applied coding techniques commonly used to compress signals over Wi-Fi, but not yet widely used in fibre communications.

“This ultimately resulted in us achieving the greatest information rate ever recorded using a single receiver,” Dr Maher said.

The channels were grouped together to create one “super channel”, which the researchers believe will be the way forward for the internet as the world’s demand for data and speed explodes.
“Super-channels are becoming increasingly important for core optical communications systems, which transfer bulk data flows between large cities, countries or even continents,” Dr Maher said.

The team is now testing the setup over longer distances to see how the speeds stack up in the real world, where data can experience distortion due to the sometimes thousands of kilometres it travels via optical fibres.

The research is part of a broader work looking at how to improve internet speeds using fibre optic cables to support the infrastructure needed for the growing use of cloud and e-health services, and the so-called internet of things.

At last count in 2014, Australians’ hunger for data jumped 33 per cent in the year, surpassing an exabyte — more than 9 million terabits.

That jump may prove to have been even bigger for 2015, with the proliferation of popular internet video streaming services like Netflix in the period. Many internet service providers also began to offer special deals with unmetered data for streaming services.

This article originally appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald.

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