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Japan Sets A New Internet Speed Record Of 319 Terabits Per Second

Have you ever wondered why the internet didn’t go down when Covid-19 was released?
Online habits shifted substantially in a short of weeks.
Zoom was used by children at school and by people at work.
Those who were desperate to get away binge-watched Netflix.
Doomscrolling is now a recognized term.
All of this happened in a flash.
Despite the fact that demand for internet bandwidth increased dramatically–by as much as 60% by last May, according to the OECD–the internet appeared to be mainly alright.
Although there were individuals working behind the scenes to manage the increased traffic, the infrastructure to accommodate the influx was already in place.
There were no reports of widespread disruptions or server farms on fire.
What is the explanation for this?
Several years in advance, good planning
The main assumption, which has shown to be correct, is that more people will wish to send more information via the internet tomorrow, Tuesday, or 10 years from now.
We may not know exactly how many individuals or what they are, but growth has been a solid bet in the past.
We must begin constructing a more competent internet now in order to meet tomorrow’s demands.
And by we, I mean scientists working in labs all across the world.
As a result, we were dutifully informed of a new eye-watering, why-would-we-need-that speed record each year.
A team from University College London (UCL) set the record at 178 terabits per second in August of last year.
Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) claim to have nearly doubled the previous record, with rates of 319 terabits per second, a year later.
It’s worth pausing to consider that for a moment.
When the UCL team presented their findings last year, they claimed that their technology could download Netflix’s complete repertoire in a fraction of a second.
The NICT team has doubled the speed of Netflix’s library per second.
The fastest internet signals are made up of data translated to light pulses and sent racing down fiber optics, which are bundles of hair-like glass strands.
Fiber optic connections transmit data more faster and with significantly less loss than typical copper wires.
Countless miles of fiber now run across countries and across oceans.
This is the web in its purest form.
With all of that infrastructure in place, experts are attempting to figure out how to cram more and more data into the same basic design–that is, maintain compatibility while increasing the number of Netflix libraries per second we can download.
They have a few options for doing so.
Light, for starters, has wave-like qualities.
A light wave can be thought of as a succession of peaks and troughs traveling through space, similar to a wave on water.
The wavelength is the distance between peaks (or troughs).
Shorter wavelengths correspond to bluer hues in visible light, while longer wavelengths correspond to redder colors.
The internet is powered by infrared light pulses that are slightly longer than visible light pulses.
We can encode data in different wavelengths, assigning a different “color” of light to each packet of data, and send them all at the same time.
When you expand the number of wavelengths accessible, you can communicate more data at the same time.
This is referred to as wavelength division multiplexing (WDM).
The researchers began by expanding the spectrum of “colors” accessible by including a complete band of wavelengths (the S-band) that had previously only been proven for short-range communication.
They demonstrated reliable transmission of the S-band across a distance of 3,001 kilometers (almost 2,000 miles) in the study.
The key to going the extra mile was a two-pronged strategy.
Fiber cables require amplifiers on a regular basis in order to carry signals over great distances.
The researchers doped–that is, added new compounds to affect the material properties–two amplifiers, one with erbium and the other with thulium, to accommodate the S-band.
This, in combination with a technique known as Raman amplification, which involves shooting a laser backwards down a line to improve signal strength throughout its length, kept the communications flowing for the long trip.
Unlike ordinary long-distance fiber, which has only one fiber core, this cable has four fiber cores for greater data transmission.
Across the four cores, the researchers divided data into 552 channels (or “colors”), with each channel delivering an average of 580 gigabits per second.
Yet, because the cable’s total diameter is the same as today’s commonly used single-core cabling, it may be connected into existing infrastructure.
The next stage is to increase the quantity of data that their system can transmit while also extending its range to trans-oceanic distances.
This type of research is merely a first step in demonstrating what is possible, rather than a final step in demonstrating what is practical.
Note, while the NICT team’s speeds would be compatible with existing infrastructure, we would need to replace existing connections.
Prior UCL research focused on boosting the capacity of existing fiber cables by updating only the transmitters, amplifiers, and receivers.
That record was accomplished on fiber that was originally introduced to the market in 2007.
That technique would be a decent starting step in terms of cost.
The old fiber, however, will eventually need to be replaced when it reaches the end of its useful life.
This is where a more comprehensive system, such as the one being investigated by NICT, might be useful.
But don’t hold your breath on a hundred-terabit connection to enable your gaming habits anytime soon.
Instead of the last few feet to your router, these speeds are for high-capacity connections connecting networks across countries, continents, and seas.
Hopefully, they’ll assure that the internet can manage whatever we throw at it in the future: new data-hungry applications we’re only starting to see (or can’t yet envision), a billion new users, or both.
Image credit: Unsplash/Mathew Schwartz

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