Researchers Set a New Data Transfer Record: 1.125 Tb/Second

It bodes well for data transfer between cities and the digital economy.
February 11, 2016, 10:15am
High-speed transmitter. Image: Optical Networks Group, UCL

Buzzwords like Big Data and the Internet of Things constantly hit the mainstream. But in order to cope with the world's increasing demand for interconnectivity and info, we need a better telecommunications systems.

Enter researchers from the University College of London's (UCL) Optical Networks Group who've just gone and smashed the fastest data rate record by achieving a whopping rate of 1.125 Tb/second. The data rate is the speed at which data is transferred within a computer or between another device and the computer. It is measured in bits per second.

To give a comparison point: Current top-notch commercial optical transmission systems can receive single channel data rates of up to 100 gigabits per second. Superfast broadband connections run at 24 megabits per second (Mb/s). The researchers rate would—in theory—allow you to download the entire series of the Game of Thrones in high definition in under one second. Their findings were published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

"The focus of our work is to develop new techniques and subsystems that will push the limits of our optical communications systems," said Robert Maher, study lead author and a senior research associate at UCL's Electronic & Electrical Engineering department, over the phone.

"It was previously thought that optical fibers could cope with an infinite amount of information, but we're quickly realizing that this isn't the case," he added.

The research group's investigations drew on information theory and digital signal processing to build an optical communications system equipped with 15 transmitting channels and a single super-receiver. The team grouped the channels together in a "super-channel" which researchers think will pave the way toward higher capacity communication systems. This receiver, said Maher, has a very large bandwidth so that it can collect a number of lower speed channels all in one go.

"This is beneficial in a number of different ways: If you grab a lot of little channels in one go, you can use common information across all these to make up for various transmission impairments that arise from lasers, or from the optical fibre itself," explained Maher.

Maher explained that the previous model had been composed of a single transmitter and a single receiver. Grouping together transmitters into a super-channel will make information processing more efficient as it will allow countries, cities, and possibly continents to transfer more data between each other.

Next up, the group will be testing their system and looking at how possible it will be to achieve similar data rates over longer transmission distances.

For the Internet of Things to really take off, it's essential to establish the correct communication infrastructure that can cope with the influx of data generation, said Maher. While the researcher's tech isn't commercial yet, Maher thinks that it won't be long (a couple of years) before super-receivers and super-channels are making sure that data sets get swapped not just between cities, but also over continents.