Tired of stuttering browsers and lagging videos? Sick of the much-loathed loading wheel of doom? Fear not, the future of hurtling internet speeds is coming and it’s going to quiver your Ethernet cables and blow your hair back.
You can thank a European team of researchers for all this incoming innovation. Together, they’ve dreamed-up an exciting new way to transmit data with speeds that make olden days internet connections look like (to quote Blackadder) ‘an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping’. All it took was a simple chip and light beam – would you believe it?
Cometh New Tech, Cometh Scandinavians
The team is mostly comprised of researchers working out of Denmark’s Technical University and Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology. These inventive Danes and Swedes are the reason we now can conceive of an exciting new system, which utilises a photonic chip to split a light beam into 8,000 colour frequencies. Each colour is then subsequently isolated and used as an individual medium for conveying data. These researchers refer to this technology as a ‘frequency comb’, capable of speeds up to 1.8 petabits per second when tested. To surface from the jargon and give you some idea what that means – a petabit is the same as one million gigabits (125,000 gigabytes in more common terms). The experiment was able to hit data transfer speeds of 1,800,000,000Mbps.
What Does All This Really Mean?
Again, to better explain what all the above actually means – in 2023 Monaco was named as having the fastest internet in the world. The average internet speed is a comparatively sluggish 262Mbps, which is 0.0000146% the speed of our rocketing Danish-Swedish researchers. NASA has a private shadow network ‘ESnet’ that reportedly hits speeds in the space agency’s confines of up to 91,000Mbps. To put that into perspective, our most advanced systems are still crawling behind what’s now being hailed as the ‘future internet’.
It’s Time To Get Excited
Petabit internet speeds, achievable with a single square millimetre of optic cabling, have been reached before. The previous record was 10.66 petabits per second for transmission of optical data. Back then, the sizeable equipment needed to reach these speeds weighed in at about a ton. While this new Scandinavian solution is far more compact and potentially scalable. This technology could actually be shrunk to matchbox size and distributed globally once the hardware has been perfected.
One of the team’s researchers, Asbjørn Jørgensen, has already stated: ‘With the single [Chalmers University of Technology] chip… and a single laser – we will be able to transmit up to 100 Pbit/s’.
For that to sink in, we should tell you that 100 petabits per second would allow you to download all 120GB of hefty Red Dead Redemption 2, available on Steam, in less than a millisecond (0.0000096 seconds). If you lived in a remote area, without fibre-optic coverage, it would probably take a full afternoon to download that same file today. We are truly on the cusp of big wave Internet surfing like it’s never been done before.
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