Aston University researchers send data at 301Tbps

Created March 26, 2024
Applications and Research

As part of an international collaboration, researchers at Aston University, in Birmingham, UK, have sent data at a speed that is 4.5 million times faster than the average UK home broadband speed of 69.4 Mbps, as calculated by telecoms regulator Ofcom. The academics transferred data at a rate of 301 terabits or 301,000,000 megabits per second, using a single standard optical fibre. The rate is the fastest ever sent, and was achieved by opening up specific new wavelength bands that are not yet used in fibre optic systems.

Professor Wladek Forysiak from Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies and Dr Ian Phillips were part of the team that successfully transmitted the data. They worked in collaboration with researchers from National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan and Nokia Bell Labs in the USA. The incredible speed was achieved by developing new optical amplifiers and optical gain equalizers to access them.

Dr Phillips, who led the development of a new wavelength management device, or optical processor, at Aston University 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.”

Dr Ian Phillips with the wavelength management device. Image: Aston University.

Professor Forysiak commented, “By increasing transmission capacity in the backbone network, our experiment could lead to vastly improved connections for end users. This ground-breaking accomplishment highlights the crucial role of advancing optical fibre technology in revolutionising communication networks for faster and more reliable data transmission. Growing system capacity by using more of the available spectrum – not just the conventional C-band but also other bands such as the L, S and now E-bands can help to keep the cost of providing this bandwidth down.” He added, “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 and commercial value.”

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

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This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.