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Aston University achieves record-breaking data transmission speed
Tue, 2nd Apr 2024

Researchers at Aston University have achieved a groundbreaking feat in data transmission, sending data at a speed 4.5 million times faster than the average home broadband. In an international collaboration with Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) and Nokia Bell Labs in the USA, the team transmitted data at an astounding rate of 301 terabits, or 301,000,000 megabits per second, using a single, standard optical fibre. This rate is a significant leap from the average UK broadband speed of 69.4 megabits per second, as reported by Ofcom in 2023.

Professor Wladek Forysiak from Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies and Dr Ian Phillips spearheaded the team that achieved this record-breaking transmission. The rapid data transfer rate was made possible by employing specific new wavelength bands that are not yet used in fibre optic systems. These bands relate to varying colours of light being transmitted down the optical fibre. The team developed novel devices known as optical amplifiers and optical gain equalisers to utilise these.

Regarding the experiment, Dr Phillips explained how the team operated beyond the commercially available C and L-bands, utilising two additional spectral bands: the E-band and the S-band. He said, "Broadly speaking, data was sent via an optical fibre like a home or office internet connection. However, alongside the commercially available C and L-bands, we used two additional spectral bands called E-band and S-band. Such bands traditionally haven't been required because the C- and L-bands could deliver the required capacity to meet consumer needs."

"Over the last few years Aston University has been developing optical amplifiers that operate in the E-band, which sits adjacent to the C-band in the electromagnetic spectrum but is about three times wider. Before the development of our device, no one had been able to properly emulate the E-band channels in a controlled way," stated Dr Phillips.

The research could help meet the increasing demand for data in the future. Professor Forysiak says the experiment could potentially lead to far superior connections for end users by enhancing transmission capacity in the Core Network. "This groundbreaking accomplishment highlights the crucial role of advancing optical fibre technology in revolutionising communication networks for faster and more reliable data transmission," said Professor Forysiak.

Broadening the available spectrum to include the L, S, and now E-bands may also reduce the cost of bandwidth provision. The technique employs the existing network but vastly improves its capacity to handle data. It provides a more sustainable solution than deploying new fibres and cables as it optimises the existing fibre network, thus increasing its capacity to carry data and extending its useful life as well as commercial value.

The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) published the experiment's results, which underline the significant role of advancing optical fibre technology for faster and more dependable data transmission. The findings presented at the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) further bolster hopes for a future with greatly enhanced data capabilities and more environmentally friendly solutions.