A team of researchers from Japan has set a new data transfer speed record of 1.02 petabits per second. What's more, this record was achieved using fibre optic cables that are fully compatible with the existing communications infrastructure. For reference, 1 petabit is equal to a million gigabits, which means that the achieved transmission speed is 100 thousand times faster than the fastest Internet access speed available to ordinary consumers. That's fast enough to stream 10 million channels of 8K video simultaneously.
The new speed record was set by scientists and engineers at Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) using several innovative technologies. Firstly, the fibre optic cable used had four glass channels to carry the optical signals. And secondly, the bandwidth of each of the channels was widened to 20 THz by using wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technology.
The high bandwidth is enabled by 801 data channels, which occupy its share of the three main spectrum bands, the widely used C- and L-bands and the experimental S-band. All this, plus new optical amplification techniques, plus new modulation technology, has enabled transmission speeds of 1.02 Pb/s on a 57.1-kilometre stretch of fibre-optic line.
Note that this is not the first time in history that NICT engineers have broken the 1 Pb/s barrier. In December 2020, they achieved speeds of 1.01 Pb/s using a fibre optic cable with one core and 15 modes. Unfortunately, this approach proved unsustainable as it required very complex signal processing using specialised chips.
Not only does the new record offer higher data speeds. The single-mode optical signal used is compatible with existing optical receivers and the cable itself has cores as small as a standard 0.125 mm in diameter. This means that the new record technology should be compatible with elements of the existing communication infrastructure and with the technological production processes.