A team of researchers has achieved the fastest ever transmission rate for digital information between a single transmitter and receiver, sending data optically at a frankly ridiculous 1.125 terabits per second. The result, achieved by scientists at University College London, uses a series of signal processing techniques to achieve the speed. But first, the lead researcher, Dr Robert Maher, puts the rate into context in a press release:
For comparison this is almost 50,000 times greater than the average speed of a UK broadband connection of 24 megabits per second... To give an example, the data rate we have achieved would allow the entire HD Game of Thrones series to be downloaded within one second.
The set-up uses fifteen different channels to send the data, each of which contain an optical signal of different wavelength. Each channel is separately modulated, then they're all combined into a single signal — what the researchers refer to as a "super channel". At the other end, a receiver with incredibly high bandwidth makes sense of it all. Perhaps it's best for Maher to explain this bit, as he does in the press release:
Using high-bandwidth super-receivers enables us to receive an entire super-channel in one go... However, using a single receiver varies the levels of performance of each optical sub-channel so we had to finely optimise both the modulation format and code rate for each optical channel individually to maximise the net information data rate. This ultimately resulted in us achieving the greatest information rate ever recorded using a single receiver.
The study will be published today in Scientific Reports.
There's a small but, though: In these experiments, the team directly connected the transmitter to the receiver. For their next trick, they will have to link the two using optical fibres, which will cause the signal to become distorted as it travels down the line.
So, it will be a little while before your broadband whips through that Game of Thrones download as Maher promises.
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