Next-gen internet project to increase broadband capacity

A pan-European project designed to improve future internet infrastructures is hoping to increase bandwidth to 100 times current capacity by 2030.

The €11.8m (£10m) MODE-GAP project aims to enhance the capacity of broadband core networks and give Europe the lead in the development of next-generation internet services.

Southampton University, which is heading the research, will develop technologies based on specialist long-haul transmission fibres, rare-earth doped optical amplifiers, transmitter and receiver components, and data-processing techniques.

According to Southampton’s project leader, Prof David Richardson, there is still room for capacity scaling of commercial systems in the next 10 to 15 years, but the development of new transmission technologies needs to begin now to ensure that data-carrying capacity limits are not reached.

‘Current fibres were developed in the mid 1970s and, over the years, the growth and demand on the bandwidth has placed a strain on their capacity,’ said Richardson. ‘In the laboratory at least we are within factors of two or three close to the fundamental limits on what can be transmitted using existing technology.’

The team will be focusing on a number of different areas, including the use of different structures from which light can be guided through optical fibres and the creation of multiple paths that can carry data within a single fibre.

‘Using the spatial dimension of the fibre is tremendously challenging because we have to deal with interference between individual modes and interference between data channels on each mode,’ said Richardson. ‘It’s an ambitious project, but we’re hopeful it will be successful.’

Project partners include Phoenix Photonics, ESPCI Paristech, OFS Fitel Denmark APS, the COBRA Institute at Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Eblana Photonics, Nokia Siemens Networks and University College Cork.