Researchers claim a new technique could triple the maximum theoretical broadband speeds possible using copper wires, potentially paving the way for faster transmission in areas where full fibre infrastructure isn’t possible.
A study at the University of Cambridge found that twisted pairs of copper wires, the type used in the UK and in many other countries, could operate at a frequency of 5GHz – five times higher than what is currently used – by deploying a small, inexpensive component called a Balun.
If the method was commercialized, it could present a cheaper, more practical alternative in areas where the resources or finances for full fibre rollout are absent.
Although the use of 5GHz is unlikely to result in a fivefold increase in speeds, the researchers believe a maximum of 3Gbps is possible.
However, the method isn’t as efficient or future-proof as fibre, which sends data as light particles across hair-like glass strands over large distances.
New techniques will likely increase speeds by hundreds of times in the future, supporting applications and use cases that simply aren’t possible with current technology.
Copper wires, as the researchers note, are incapable of using frequencies greater than 5GHz because they effectively act as an aerial.
BT had planned to increase the speeds of its copper network using a technology called G.Fast, that would have boosted typical speeds to 330Mbps. However, it has since opted for a full fibre approach, with plans to cover 25 million homes and businesses by 2026, and has started the process of switching off its copper infrastructure.
The UK government has plans for universal access to ultrafast broadband by the end of the decade, with those not covered by commercial deployments of fibre able to access faster speeds via alternative technologies like satellite and 5G-enabled Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).
Via New Scientist
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.