The internet has this week broken another speed record through innovation by testing and proving that 1.4 terabits of data per second can be transferred over existing core fibre infrastructure. The tests were successfully carried out by BT and Alcatel-Lucent on a 410km testbed between London’s iconic BT Telecom Tower and the Adastral Park research campus near Ipswich.
This new internet speed record is of particular importance to the industry as it means greater internet traffic can be safely pushed down existing infrastructure without the need for expensive physical fibre upgrades, or loss of data. 1.4tb/s is equivalent to 44 uncompressed high definition films per second.
The leap in speed was achieved by reducing the spacing between the channels from 50GHz to 35GHz. As a comparison it is similar to reducing the physical separation between aircraft taking off and landing, meaning more arrivals and departures without the need for building a second runway.
With the rise of popular applications such as Skype and Netflix, the demand for fast and reliable streaming content and bandwidth has increased dramatically over recent years. Internet TV is fast becoming a reality and as more and more people and gadgets become connected to the internet there is an ever growing demand for speed and reliability.
But as exciting as this development is, I won’t be signing up to Netflix at this time as there is still significant progress that needs to be made to make the whole of the internet experience fast and reliable. I write this blog from a hotel where the wifi only seems to work next to the reception, despite wireless routers blinking away on every floor. By sitting close to the window in my room I can piggy back off a neighbouring open wifi connection, but it’s slow and frequently disappears. When I visit my native Scottish Highlands I cannot use Skype at all as the copper cables from the local exchange to my village simply prevent it from working, even for voice calls.
So while speed records fall for data transfer, the internet will only be as fast as the slowest connection on the network. These local network and hardware upgrades will take the most time to solve, but it will happen eventually. The demand is too strong for slow and unreliable internet to continue.
And then we need to talk about free public wifi. That’s for another day when I’m back on a fast connection again…