Researchers at Nokia Bell Labs, Deutsche Telekom T-Labs and the Technical University of Munich have developed a new data-transmission technique that can deliver speeds of one terabit per second over optical fiber.
To put this speed in perspective, the much-lauded Google Fiber is able to provide up to one gigabit per second, which Google says is fast enough to download a full movie in less than two minutes.
Nokia's new technique will have the capacity to provide speeds 1,000 times faster than this. This should make it possible to download high-definition films and entire seasons of TV shows in a matter of seconds, bringing us close to the theoretical maximum information transfer rate of that channel, and approaching the 'Shannon limit' of the fiber link.
Called Probabilistic Constellation Shaping, the technique uses quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) formats to achieve higher transmission capacity over a given channel, to increase optical fiber flexibility and performance in order to move data traffic faster, and over greater distances, without increasing the optical network complexity.
Potential speeds vs reality
According to Marcus Weldon, president of Nokia Bell Labs and Nokia CTO: "Future optical networks not only need to support orders of magnitude higher capacity, but also the ability to dynamically adapt to channel conditions and traffic demand.
"Probabilistic Constellation Shaping offers great benefits to service providers and enterprises by enabling optical networks to operate closer to the Shannon Limit to support massive datacenter interconnectivity and provide the flexibility and performance required for modern networking in the digital era."
Obviously we won't see the benefits of this technology immediately, as it's not clear when the technology will actually be used in real networks.
However, Professor Gerhard Kramer, who's involved with the project, said the technology had been tested under "real" conditions, meaning that over the next few years network limits could potentially increase to meet our growing need for higher-capacity networks.