UCL sets record for fastest data rate

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11 Feb, 2016

University team achieves throughputs of 1.125 Tbps

A group of researchers at University College London (UCL) has set a new record for data transfer rates with speeds of over 1Tbps.

The rate was set as part of research on the capacity limits of optical transmission systems, designed to address the growing demand for fast data rates.

To achieve these speeds, the team used techniques from information theory and digital signal processing to build an optical communications system with multiple transmitting channels and a single receiver.

The project set out to investigate ways to improve the optical network infrastructure to support the increasing amount of digital content, cloud and e-health services, as well as the universal connectivity of smart devices referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT).

The team was able to determine the best way of encoding information in optical signals, taking into account the limitations of the transmitter and receiver. They then applied coding techniques commonly used in wireless communications, but not yet widely used in optical communications, to ensure the transmitted signals are adapted to distortions in the system electronics.

At UNLOC labs at UCL, the researchers built the new optical system and measured its performance. Fifteen channels, each carrying an optical signal of different wavelength were modulated using the 256QAM format typically used in cable modems, combined and sent to a single optical receiver for detection.

By grouping the channels together, the team created a ‘super-channel’ that, although not yet commercially available, is widely believed to be a way forward for the next generation of high-capacity communication systems.

Lead researcher, Dr Robert Maher at UCL Electronic & Electrical Engineering, said that while current state-of-the-art commercial optical transmission systems are capable of receiving single channel data rates of up to 100 Gbps, "we are working with sophisticated equipment in our lab to design the next generation core networking and communications systems that can handle data signals at rates in excess of 1 Tbps".

"For comparison, this is almost 50,000 times greater than the average speed of a UK broadband connection of 24Mbps, which is the current speed defining “superfast” broadband. To give an example, the data rate we have achieved would allow the entire HD Games of Thrones series to be downloaded within one second," he added.