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Call for research to boost 'light pipe' broadband

Fibre could hit ‘capacity crunch’ before technology improves

A report by a research group from the University of Southampton says that the bandwidth capacity of current fibre optic broadband may soon be reached.

Published in the journal Science, the report entitled ‘Filling the Light Pipe’ is the work of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton and cites a “growing realisation” within the telecommunications industry that the end of the period of rapid growth in optical fibre capacity is now within sight.

The report points to news coming from the Optical Fibre Communication Conference earlier this year in which several stakeholders had “reported results within a factor of 2 of the ultimate capacity limits of existing optical fibre technology.”

The group calls for “radical innovation in our physical network infrastructure,” saying that research was needed to improve the physical properties of fibre optic cables and the amplifiers used to relay day over long distance such as the submarine cables linking countries around the world.

Ultimately the research improvements may come to late to avoid hitting what the group called the “capacity crunch”, adding that the future of broadband could result in an “increasing need to get used to the idea that bandwidth – just like water and energy – is a valuable commodity to be used wisely."

Image credit: Sandia National Laboratory. 

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