Monday, 4 August 2014

43Tbps over a single fiber: World’s fastest network would let you download a movie in 0.2 milliseconds

A research group at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), which was the first to break the one-terabit barrier in 2009, has today managed to squeeze 43 terabits per second over a single optical fiber with just one laser transmitter. In a more user-friendly unit, 43Tbps is equivalent to a transfer rate of around 5.4 terabytes per second —
or 5,375 gigabytes to be exact. Yes, if you had your hands on DTU’s new fiber-optic network, you could transfer the entire contents of your 1TB hard drive in a fifth of a second — or, to put it another way, a 1GB DVD rip in 0.2 milliseconds.

The previous record over a single optical fiber — 26 terabits per second, set by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology way back in 2011 — had remained unbroken for a surprisingly long period of time. DTU set a series of single-fiber world records in 2009 and 2011, but had since been forced to sit in Karlsruhe’s shadow — until now. This was obviously a pain point for the DTU researchers — the press release [Danish] announcing the new world record actually calls out Karlsruhe by name. I guess a bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone though, right?

The main thing about this world record is DTU’s use of a single laser over a single fiber. There have been plenty of network demonstrations of hundreds or even thousands of terabits (petabits) per second with multiple lasers over multiple fibers — but those demos are so far removed from the reality of fiber-optic networking that they’re not really worth discussing. When we talk about commercial fiber-optic links, we’re nearly always talking about single-laser-single-fiber, because that’s what the entire internet backbone is built upon. In other words, the techniques used by DTU to hit 43Tbps actually have a chance of making it into real-world networks in the next few years. You might soon be able to download a TV show or movie in quite literally the blink of an eye

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