Aston University successfully sends data 4.5 million times faster than broadband

A research team led by Aston University has sent data at a speed that is 4.5 million times faster than the average home broadband.

Dr Ian Phillips with the wavelength management device
Dr Ian Phillips with the wavelength management device - Aston University

As part of an international collaboration, the researchers transferred data at a rate of 301 terabits or 301,000,000 megabits per second using a single, standard optical fibre.

In comparison, the Ofcom UK home broadband performance report, published in September 2023, stated that the average broadband speed is just 69.4 megabits per second.

The study’s rate is the fastest data ever sent, and researchers said they achieved this by opening up specific new wavelength bands that are not currently used in fibre optic systems.

Professor Wladek Forysiak from Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies and Dr Ian Phillips from Aston School of Computer Science and Digital Technologies were part of the team that successfully transmitted the data. They worked in collaboration with researchers from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan and Nokia Bell Labs in the USA.

To access the new wavelength bands, the researchers developed optical amplifiers and optical gain equalisers.

In a statement, Dr Phillips said: “Broadly speaking, data was sent via an optical fibre like a home or office internet connection. However, alongside the commercially available C and L-bands, we used two additional spectral bands called E-band and S-band. Such bands traditionally haven’t been required because the C- and L-bands could deliver the required capacity to meet consumer needs.

“Over the last few years Aston University has been developing optical amplifiers that operate in the E-band, which sits adjacent to the C-band in the electromagnetic spectrum but is about three times wider. Before the development of our device, no one had been able to properly emulate the E-band channels in a controlled way.”

The results of the experiment were published this month by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), and were presented as a post-deadline paper at the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) held in Glasgow, October 2023.

“By increasing transmission capacity in the backbone network, our experiment could lead to vastly improved connections for end users. This groundbreaking accomplishment highlights the crucial role of advancing optical fibre technology in revolutionising communication networks for faster and more reliable data transmission,” said Professor Forysiak.

“It is also a ‘greener solution’ than deploying more, newer fibres and cables since it makes greater use of the existing deployed fibre network, increasing its capacity to carry data and prolonging its useful life & commercial value.”