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'Speed of light' fibre optic breakthrough hints at faster internet

Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a hollow-core fibre optic cable they say has reduced the latency of data transmission.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

Researchers at the University of Southampton claim to have increased the speed at which data can be transmitted over fibre optic cables, one of the links which form backbone of the internet.

Writing in Nature, the team said it has developed a hollow-core fibre that has transmitted wavelength division, multiplexed data at 99.7 percent the speed of light in a vacuum.

The faster light can travel through a fibre the lower the potential latency of data transmission. In comparison, the solid silica glass fibre optic cables in use today propagate light at some 69 percent the speed of light in a vacuum.

The difficulty with using hollow-core fibres to transmit data to date is that the cables have struggled to maintain the combination of low loss, wide bandwidth and mode-coupling characteristics needed for high capacity data transmission.

The researchers said they have now achieved an acceptable balance of these factors, recording a loss of 3.5dB per km, and using a 160nm bandwidth channel to transmit 37 WDM (wavelength division multiplexing) channels at 40Gbps, which they claim is 1.54 microseconds/km faster than over conventional fibre.

Apart from the general benefit in faster transmission, wide bandwidth, low latency signal transmission links are in demand to increase the rate at which algorithmic financial trading can take place and as fast interconnects between components inside future exaflop-scale supercomputers.

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