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2/29/2008
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IBM Network Prototype Promises 1-Second Movie Downloads

The technology uses photons of light, instead of electrons, to transmit information at 8 trillion bits per second.

Forget Blu-ray or the recently demised HD DVD format. IBM on Friday said it's working on high-speed networking technology that could let consumers download a high-definition movie off the Internet in less than a second.

It's a breakthrough that could put an end to DVDs. "We're taking an important step toward commercializing this technology," IBM researcher Clint Schow said in a statement.

The technology that IBM's developing uses photons of light, instead of electrons, to transmit information. That, the company says, promises networks in which 8 trillion bits of information could be transferred in a second using power equivalent to that required by a single, 100-watt bulb.

That's about 1% of the power that's needed by today's standard electrical interconnects.

IBM thinks the technology -- dubbed "green optical link" -- could spark a revolution in high-def content. For instance, Web sites that offer movies could use it to access libraries of millions of high-definition videos in seconds. And laptops equipped with optical data ports could download such content in an instant.

The technology could also be used to turn cell phones and PDAs into portable HD displays.

To ready green optical link technology for commercialization, IBM is building compatible circuit boards that it's calling Optocards. The boards employ an array of low-loss polymer optical waveguides to conduct light between transmitters and receivers.

A complete databus built from Optocards would not only incorporate a large number of high-speed channels, IBM says it would also pack them together to create an architecture of unprecedented bandwidth density. That's because each waveguide channel is smaller than a human hair.

IBM said the work was undertaken as part of a networking research project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Department of Defense.

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