The British government announced a £7.2 million investment in research which it says could "revolutionise the internet".
A six-year project called the "Photonics HyperHighway" project aims to bring together scientists from the universities of Southampton and Essay as well as industry partners including BBC R&D.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the project will develop new materials and devices to increase internet bandwidth.
"The Photonics HyperHighway project has the potential to truly revolutionise the internet, making it much faster and more energy-efficient," said Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts.
"The project is also a shining example of the UK’s world-leading role in this area of research, and I look forward to the exciting breakthroughs it will bring."
Leading the project is academic Professor David Payne, Director of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre.
"Now is the time to look ahead to develop the UK infrastructure of the future. Our ambition is nothing less than to rebuild the internet hardware to suit it to the needs of 21st-century Britain," said Professor Payne.