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In the 1980s fiber optics became the latest and greatest communications media and like it’s predecessors it changed the face of the world drastically. The old technology was split into two realms for communications transmission, the affordable but slow and the expensive but faster. With the introduction of fiber optics and its capabilities we would see huge changes in the world as we knew it. Now scientists from Boston University and the University of Southern California, in collaboration with Danish optics company OFS Fitel, are on the cusp of a breakthrough that will dwarf to fiber speeds of yesterday.
In the 1980s the telecommunications, data and cable tv networks of the world were fast to embrace the huge advances and advantages of the new media, fiber optics. The old telecom cables that crisscrossed the nation were very thick, heavy and extremely limited in the number of conversations they could carry and how far they could transmit prior to needing to be boosted. With fiber optics the new networks could carry hundreds of thousands of simultaneous calls over glass the size of a hair and soon replaced the old technology. The same was exactly true for data transmission as it was carried over the same speed limiting media. Cable TV used an alternative media, coax, that had greater bandwidth capacity that was needed for video but still it was very limited by distance and by channel capacity. They too embraced fiber and were providing ever increasing numbers of channels and services. But the impression was that we had reached the limits of these new fiber networks and companies were installing ever more glass into the ground. But now it is all going to change again.
The researchers at BU and USC have refined a new transmission architecture that expands the data carrying capacity of the existing fiber and at the same time increases the maximum speed of the transmission. In this new architecture they have reached speeds of 1.6 terbits per second. At this speed you could download 10 dvd movies in approximately 6 seconds. The number of cable TV channels your provider could be offering in a few years is reaching the point of being silly. But alternative and new cable TV services could spring from advances like this. Imagine a city such as New York or London. They have populations in excess of 10 million people and today the service providers try to serve this highly immigrant population with channels to address the majority. With this new technology you could see a centralized TV hub every home is fibered back to and while you have 400 channels of English TV, your neighbor to the right could have the same in Russian and the neighbor to the left could have it in Spanish… and all being delivered over the same fiber. Internet options could explode into the stratosphere. Screen builds would be completed before you could un-click the mouse. YouTube would never ever buffer again and Skype would always be crystal clear. You could be watching a movie in HD online at the same time that you are downloading 20 more. The impacts to universities and academic institutions could be amazing. The possibilities from an advancement like this are mind boggling.