Get ready for blazing fast internet, folks. But take your time; you have plenty of time to prepare for it. A team of scientists in Europe has developed a new way of data transfer (opens in a new tab) with speeds that dwarf the world’s fastest internet connections – and they did it with a simple chip and a beam of light.
The team – consisting of scientists from the Technical University of Denmark and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden – designed a system that uses a photonic chip to split a beam of light into more than 8,000 different color frequencies, with each color isolated and used as a separate data carrier .
The technology, which scientists call “frequency combs”, has achieved a staggering speed of 1.8 petabits per second in tests. A petabit is equal to one million gigabits, or 125,000 gigabytes in real terms. In other words, the experiment achieved an effective data rate of 1,800,000,000 Mbps.
To put it in perspective, average Internet speed in Monaco (which has the fastest internet in the world as of 2023) it is 262 Mbps. This is just 0.0000146% of the speed achieved by the Danish-Swedish team; the global average is even lower, only 69.14 Mbps.
If you are lucky enough to work for NASAyou can take advantage of the space agency’s “ESnet” private shadow network, which is said to be capable of speeds of up to 91,000Mbps – still a tiny fraction of the speed a frequency comb can achieve with less than one square millimeter of optical cabling.
Analysis: It’s really impressive, but don’t get too excited
In the past, Internet speeds were achieved in petabits; as reported by New Scientist (opens in a new tab), the previous record for optical data transmission was actually 10.66 petabits per second, but it required a ton of bulky hardware. This new solution is much more compact, but more importantly, it is there scalable.
This means the technology can be reduced to the size of a matchbox and should theoretically be able to achieve much faster speeds once the hardware is refined.
Asbjørn Arvad Jørgensen, one of the researchers, stated that “from our calculations, with a single chip made by Chalmers University of Technology and a single laser, we will be able to transmit up to 100 Pbit/s.” Let it soak for a minute.
Faster than speed
100 petabits per second is absolutely ridiculous internet speed. We mean funny; we did some math on this to prove it. Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most popular games on Steam right now, and it’s also one of the biggest, packing a whopping 120GB file size.
With an internet connection of 100 Pbit/s, you can download the entire game in approximately 9,600 nanoseconds; less than a millisecond, just 0.0000096 seconds. It means wild – this writer lives in a fairly remote rural area with no fiber coverage, where it takes most of an afternoon to download a game like RDR2. Just imagining such internet speeds sends us into spasms of ecstasy.
Of course, in the near future we will not have the Internet with a bandwidth of 1000 Pbit/s. Apart from anything else, your practical Internet speed – i.e. how fast you can actually download things – will always be limited to the speed of your computer’s disk; if you’re still using an old, worn-out hard drive, you can’t expect a transfer speed of more than 200MB/s. Even the fastest drives today (PCIe 5.0 NVMe SSDs) reach speeds of around 13,000 MB/s.
This is an obstacle that will take a long time to overcome, but it is not the only problem. While Jørgensen and his team say the technology is scalable and deployable, it would also require massive infrastructure development, which just isn’t happening fast enough. If that were the case, we’d all have NASA’s internet by now.