A team of scientists working out of Bangor University in Wales has developed a commercially affordable method of using Optical Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OOFDM) over fibre optic lines, which could deliver broadband ISP speeds that are 2,000 times faster than current services.
But the three-year project (OCEAN) is not the first to make use of OOFDM, which typically splits a laser down to multiple different optical frequencies. The data can then be broken up and sent in parallel streams via the different frequencies. Last year a team of Sydney University scientists found an energy-efficient way of using a single laser to transfer data down a 50km long single-mode fibre optic cable at speeds of up to 26Tbps (Terabits per second).
The key difference with OCEAN is that this work is capable of “significantly saving the network installation and maintenance cost for both [ISPs] and equipment vendors” by using low-cost off-the-shelf components and end-to-end real-time OOFDM transceivers via currently installed fibre networks (FTTH etc.). It also provides a “Green” solution due to the “significant reduction in electrical power consumption“.
The work is also more targeted towards home and business connections, as opposed to undersea cables, most of which tend to offer broadband speeds of less than 100Mbps; currently only a few UK FTTH ISPs offer up to 1Gbps and most suffer from very limited coverage.
Professor Jianming Tang explained:
“Compared to today’s commercially available broadband connections, the technology is expected to provide end-users with both downloading and uploading speeds up to 2,000 times faster than current speeds and with a guaranteed quality of services at a price that subscribers are currently paying for their current 20Mb/s services, regardless of subscribers’ home location. Obviously, this will revolutionise communication technology.”
However there’s still the little matter of capacity supply costs and Traffic Management measures to consider, although the university’s efforts bode well for the future and could help a new generation of truly fibre optic ISPs to improve their service without incurring excessive additional costs.
On the other hand most of today’s connections are still being delivered over older and slower copper based broadband lines. This is gradually beginning to change and the situation could look very different in another ten or twenty years’ time.
According to Bangor University, OCEAN is a partnership project (funded by the European Union (3m Euros+)) that includes several major global telecoms firms; Fujitsu Semiconductors Europe, Finisar Israel, Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute and VPIsystems GmbH.