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Southampton UK Scientists Build 73.7Tbps Capable Hollow Fibre Optic Cable

Wednesday, Mar 27th, 2013 (10:29 am) - Score 2,729

Scientists working at the University of Southampton (England, UK) have found a way to push data at close to the true speed of light by using a special hollow fibre optic cable, which has been able to deliver transfer speeds of 73.7 Terabits per second.

It’s a little known fact that, no matter what clever methods you use to speed up transmission capacity (e.g. sending more data by using different wavelengths of light as separate data channels), light still propagates 31% slower than the true speed of light in a silica glass fibre versus a vacuum. The speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792,458 meters per second.

The University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) has thankfully found a solution to this problem, which can increase data transmission to 99.7% the speed of light by combining traditional wavelength division multiplexing with ordinary hollow fibres.

Dr Francesco Poletti said:

Previous fibres either have higher bandwidth but high loss, or lower loss but narrower bandwidth. We’ve achieved both in the same fibre.”

The demonstration might have only tested this idea over a few hundred metres but it’s still an interesting prospect for the future, albeit a prospect with one rather significant drawback. In order to make use of the new method you’d need to replace the existing fibre optic cables, which is hardly an ideal solution given that current fibres have long been touted as “future proof“.

Similarly recent research and development has shown that existing fibre optic cables still have plenty of ways in which they can achieve a massive boost in capacity and often without needing to be replaced. Admittedly we might one day find that being able to push past the 31% slowdown becomes a necessity but traditional fibres still have plenty of life to live.

Nature Paper – Towards high-capacity fibre-optic communications

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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