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255Tbps: World's fastest network could carry all of the internet's traffic on a single fiber

October 29, 2014 | Telepresence Options

darpa-hollow-core-fiber

Story and images by Sebastian Anthony / Extreme Tech

A joint group of researchers from the Netherlands and the US have smashed the world speed record for a fiber network, pushing 255 terabits per second down a single strand of glass fiber. This is equivalent to around 32 terabytes per second -- enough to transfer a 1GB movie in 31.25 microseconds (0.03 milliseconds), or alternatively, the entire contents of your 1TB hard drive in about 31 milliseconds.

Multi-core_fiber

To put 255Tbps into perspective, the fastest single-fiber links in commercial operation top out at 100Gbps, or 2,550 times slower. 255Tbps is mindbogglingly quick; it's greater, by far, than the total capacity of every cable -- hundreds of glass fibers -- currently spanning the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, 255 terabits per second is similar to -- or maybe even more than -- the total sum of all traffic flowing across the internet at peak time.

How did the researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and University of Central Florida (CREOL) do it? Multi-core fiber, of course! As it stands, the entire internet backbone consists of single-mode glass and plastic fiber. These fibers can only carry one mode of light -- which, in essence, means they can only carry the light from a single laser. (It's a bit more complex than that, but it's beyond the scope of this story to explain it any further.) You can still use wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) to push insane amounts of data down a single fiber (a few terabits), but we will eventually run up against the laws of physics.

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