UC San Diego Researchers Amp Up Internet Speeds - InformationWeek
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6/29/2015
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UC San Diego Researchers Amp Up Internet Speeds

Researchers at UC San Diego have blown through expected limits of data transmission on fiber optic cable, paving a new lane for faster Web surfing.

COBOL Leads Us Back To The Future
COBOL Leads Us Back To The Future
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Photonics researchers at the University of California, San Diego have increased the maximum power, and therefore the distance, at which optical signals can be sent through optical fibers, indicating a new path towards ultra high-speed Internet connectivity.

The team of electrical engineers broke through key barriers that limit the distance information can travel in fiber optic cables and still be accurately deciphered by a receiver -- information traveled nearly 7,5000 miles through fiber optic cables with standard amplifiers and no electronic regenerators.

The test results suggest the potential for elimination of electronic regenerators placed intermittently along the fiber link.

The business potential for a breakthrough of this scale is fairly obvious -- faster networks mean more people and more capacity to send larger and larger sums of data across the Internet -- however, it's not clear when something of this could move from the lab to the enterprise.

(Image: arcoss/iStockphoto)

(Image: arcoss/iStockphoto)

The laboratory experiments involved setups with both three and five optical channels, which interact with each other within the silica fiber optic cables, but the researchers noted this approach could be used in systems with far more communications channels.

The results of the experiment, performed at UC San Diego's Qualcomm Institute by researchers from the Photonics Systems Group and published in the June edition of the research journal Science, indicate that fiber information capacity can be notably increased over previous estimates by pre-empting the distortion effects that will happen in the optical fiber.

The official name of the paper is "Overcoming Kerr-induced capacity limit in optical fiber transmission."

"Today's fiber optic systems are a little like quicksand," Nikola Alic, a research scientist from the Qualcomm Institute, the corresponding author on the Science paper, and a principal of the experimental effort, wrote in a June 25 statement.

"With quicksand, the more you struggle, the faster you sink," Alic added. "With fiber optics, after a certain point, the more power you add to the signal, the more distortion you get, in effect preventing a longer reach. Our approach removes this power limit, which in turn extends how far signals can travel in optical fiber without needing a repeater."

Eduardo Temprana, left, and Nikola Alic at work in the Photonic Systems lab.
(Image: UC San Diego)

Eduardo Temprana, left, and Nikola Alic at work in the Photonic Systems lab.

(Image: UC San Diego)

The same research group published a paper last year outlining the fact that the experimental results they are now publishing were theoretically possible, and the university has also filed a patent on the method and applications of frequency-referenced carriers for compensation of nonlinear impairments in transmission.

[Read about where Internet traffic is headed in the next five years.]

"Crosstalk between communication channels within a fiber optic cable obeys fixed physical laws. It's not random," Stojan Radic, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego and the senior author on the Science paper, said in a statement.

"We now have a better understanding of the physics of the crosstalk. In this study, we present a method for leveraging the crosstalk to remove the power barrier for optical fiber," Radic added. "Our approach conditions the information before it is even sent, so the receiver is free of crosstalk caused by the Kerr effect."

The Kerr effect, also called the quadratic electro-optic effect (QEO effect), is a change in the refractive index of a material in response to an applied electric field -- a challenge which the team at UC San Diego appears to have surmounted.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

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batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2015 | 1:25:43 AM
Re: Amped
@Thomas Claburn, same here... I have the same hope... but I would be prepared to expect worst until it get better....
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2015 | 1:24:21 AM
Re: Amped
@AlanH2933 sad reality of corporate games...but I do hope we gonna see it before we die...
AlanH2933
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AlanH2933,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2015 | 4:38:29 PM
Re: Amped
I agree with the previous posters.

This new technology for increased Internet speeds will be hampered and stalled by every telecommunications company (Time Warner, COX, COMCAST... etc. etc.) because they will have to remove "old" and install "new" equipment and pay a licensing / royalty fee to UCSD (or whoever) to make this a reality.

Also, the Telco's (Telecommunication) like Time Warner, Cox and Comcast want to charge MORE... Not LESS for increased Internet speed to their customers.  Each of these companies are a monopoly (which should be illegal according to the Sherman Antitrust Act) and they can do whatever they want to impede progress at a lessor cost to the consumer.


Don't look for this "new" higher speed Internet discovery to show up until we are long dead and buried!!

What a shame, isn't it!!! :-((
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2015 | 7:59:22 AM
Re: UC San Diego Researchers Amp Up Internet Speeds
I like to consider myself pretty sharp, and a pretty quick study when tackling something new, but jeeze - more than a couple lines of this stuff goes right over my head. I understand, basically, the science at play here; travelling over long distances produces a (predictable) distortion effect in the data being transferred, and the scientists have found a way to compensate when the trasmission is made. That much actually seems pretty straightforward - indeed, the paper from last year said: "...the described [current] state of affairs is at the least surprising, considering that the nonlinear impairment... should be effectively mitigated, if not fully cancellable." As soon as we start talking about "the carrier frequency uncertainty, as well as in its stochastic variations", though, I'm pretty glad I decided not go for that doctorate.

Anyway, if I'm understanding it right, this allows more power to be sent with the data at the time of transmission (because increased power normally results in increased interference), which is what allows it to travel farther without the need for regenerators? That makes sense, but it does seem likely that we're looking at some years before that's the standard. Networks need to be rebuilt to take advantage of the lack of regenerators, right? The two ends of a given fiber link would also need to be modified to use the technology developed by the UC SD researchers once it's ready, wouldn't they?  Since the University has put a patent on it, widespread adoption  may be hindered - without which, this approach loses some value; transfers won't actually be that much faster unless they're moving only on these kinds of fiber links. Still, very promising and interesting. Thanks for sharing, Nathan!
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/29/2015 | 6:58:32 PM
Re: Amped
I'd like to be optimistic but there always seems to be a bottleneck somewhere that undermines such gains.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
6/29/2015 | 5:58:24 PM
Not Even A Remote Possibility Under the US Broadband Status Quo
<excerpt>

 

[...] however, it's not clear when something of this could move from the lab to the enterprise.

 

 R&D can generate all kinds of digital goodliness, and, as long as Congress continues to be bought off by industry, and, thusly only permitting a broadband duopoly in any given market, the answer is never.

danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
6/29/2015 | 4:08:16 PM
Amped
This is good. As we enter an era where new platforms like virtual reality are set to take hold, I expect the amount of throughput needed for our disposal is going to increase dramatically. Any research that is done to clear up some of these issues in terms of crosstalk or degredation of signal is warranted. 
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