Using a single optical fiber with just one laser transmitter, researchers at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have broken the world data transfer record with a new fiber-optic network that is so fast it can download the entire contents of a 1-terabyte hard drive in just about one-fifths of a second. At 43 terabits per second (equivalent to 5.4 terabytes per second), this can download a standard 1GB movie in a time frame that’s pretty much instantaneous, though the exact time is 0.2 milliseconds. The new speed of 43Tbps shattered the previous world record of 26 terabits per second, set by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in 2011.
The previous world record holding fiber-optic system was accomplished using a single-core fiber, as the faster multi-core fibers were too difficult and expensive to manufacture at the time. Using a much faster multi-core fiber, which presently has all of the kinks ironed-out, one could argue that using this more efficient fiber to break the world record was akin to cheating (though it’s the technological innovation that is important here). The key difference is the multi-core fiber used that has 7 individual channels with each carrying their own optical signal.
Aside from the fact this fiber exists, there is not much additional information available about how exactly the DTU managed to fit a staggering 5.4 terabytes of data per second into a single fiber. This amazingly fast new fiber was reportedly produced by the Japanese telecom giant NTT. Hopefully, we will soon be able to enjoy connections fast enough to download large, multimedia files in quite literally the blink of an eye.
Currently, the fastest commercial fiber-optic network connections cap is 100Gbps (100 Gigabit Ethernet). The IEEE, short for the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers (I like to call them the Institute of Excessive Endless E’s), is looking into a possible 400Gbps or 1Tbps standard. However, this wouldn’t be available until 2017, or later. Unfortunately, this is a long wait for a what-if, and who knows what will happen while we face the looming threat of a closed, aggressively controlled internet thanks to a possible future loss of net neutrality.
The DTU’s incredible innovation won’t be relevant to consumers until it’s ready for the masses, though there is the possibility that the technology will be brought to market sooner than estimated, since Japan’s NTT, which produced the fiber, is intent on expediting its commercialization.
There is no information yet on how expensive this fiber-optic network will be. The good news for now is we’ll never have to worry about running out of internet bandwidth as long as these types of technological advances continue. That is, of course, unless those incredibly powerful ISPs are able to get in bed with the FCC to pursue their noble and hard-fought struggle to monetize and control the internet.