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Lab Test Pushes Data Speeds of 2.56Tbps via Twisted Light Network

Wednesday, Jun 27th, 2012 (9:38 am) - Score 779

A multi-national team of scientists working out of the University of Southern California (USC) have successfully tested a new networking technology that can “twist light” to send data at a staggering speed of up to 2.56Tbps (Terabits per second)! The solution could “potentially” be adapted for use in fibre optic cables or even satellite links.

Just to put that in perspective, Ofcom claims (here) that UK consumers currently surf the internet with an average download speed of 7.6Mbps (Megabits per second). By comparison 1 Terabit is equal to 1,048,576 Megabits. Calling the new technology fast would be an understatement.

But how does it work? Light can already be split into both different wavelengths (colours) and polarization, which allows for the simultaneous transmission of vast quantities of data down existing fibre optic cables. The new solution makes use of Orbital Angular Momentum (OAM), which we covered before when it was used in a 2.4GHz wifi wireless networking experiment (here).

The USC test simply takes OAM and applies it to a different environment. The lab test effectively manipulated “eight beams of light so that each one twisted in a DNA-like helical shape as it propagated in free space” (imagine this as being a bit like the vortex of water in your sink that occurs when you pull the plug out). Each of the beams had its own individual twist and can be encoded with “1” and “0” data bits (binary), making each an independent data stream.

Alan Willner, USC Electrical Engineering Professor, said:

You’re able to do things with light that you can’t do with electricity. That’s the beauty of light; it’s a bunch of photons that can be manipulated in many different ways at very high speed.

We didn’t invent the twisting of light, but we took the concept and ramped it up to a terabit-per-second.”

At present this is only a lab test and one that was focused on improving the primary capacity link between Satellite’s and earth stations, although work to adapt it for use in fibre optic cables is already underway.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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