We invented WiFi and now Australian researchers claim they have helped develop a device that enables the fastest internet speeds ever recorded – capable of downloading a thousand HD movies in less than a second.
The Melbourne research team was able to achieve a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps), a million times faster than a good NBN connection.
“At 40 terabits per second, we were able to put through one single fibre about three times the peak data rate that the NBN has ever seen over its entire network,” Monash University’s Dr Bill Corcoran told AAP on Thursday.
And it’s all made possible by a single optical chip the size of a fingernail.
The new device is known as a micro-comb and works as a “splitter” of sorts, dividing current internet fibres into 80 unique channels.
The team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT tested the micro-comb and found each of the new, split channels had the same capacity as the original one, drastically multiplying the amount of data a single fibre can send and receive.
They envisage the devices will be used at internet data traffic points – where entire neighbourhoods or suburbs worth of data are pulled together and then connected to the wider internet for example.
That means the ordinary Australian won’t be getting speeds a million times that of the NBN, but the good news is there would be a trickle-down effect on personal connections.
“If you’ve got 400 gigabit per second to share amongst a bunch of people, that cake only gets chopped up a so many times before the slices become too thin,” Dr Corcoran says.
“If you’ve got a bigger cake, then you can give people bigger slices.”
The struggle of internet networks in supporting all the connections of people working from home during the pandemic is a “sneak peek” of what the future might look like without micro-combs, Dr Corcoran says.
But, it will be years before the technology is widely available for communications, he added.
The device is compatible with Australia’s current NBN infrastructure, which the research team hopes will mean cheaper and more energy efficient connections in the future.
“All of the expense and time and effort that we’ve gone to putting optical fibres into the ground, we can really make that cost worthwhile looking into the future.”