This simple receiver could make your home broadband 30 times faster and stop providers throttling you
We need to talk about the UK’s dire broadband.
A recent report found we don’t even rank in the top 30 countries in the world for fast connections (we came in at 31) and the average broadband download speed in the UK is an embarrassing 16.5Mbits/sec – just a little faster than the average 4G speed.
We also slipped from being the 14th fastest in Europe in 2011 to 20th.
This is down, largely, to poor infrastructure and the large receivers needed to give signals a much-needed boost. But there may be a solution.
Researchers at University College London have developed new hardware that “provides consistently high-speed broadband…at more than 10,000 megabits-per-second (Mb/s).”
“High-speed broadband services require optical fibres in access networks to satisfy the continuously growing demand of digital economy,” the team explains.
Current so-called “optical access networks”, the consumer networks offered in the UK, connect multiple people who have to share bandwidth. This primitive technology is cheap to run via household routers, but “squanders the bandwidth available to subscribers”. As a result, the team said it is not fit to meet future broadband needs.
UCL’s tech claims to solve this by tweaking how the signal is sent to subscribers and by shrinking the receiver size. Working with the EPSRC UNLOC Programme and Huawei, scientists from the university’s Optical Networks Group and the University of Cambridge used their simplified receiver on optical access networks to connecting internet subscribers directly to service providers.
To maximise the capacity of optical fibre links, data is sent using different wavelengths, or colours, of light. Ideally, service providers would dedicate a wavelength to each subscriber to avoid them having to share bandwidth, and while this is possible (using highly sensitive hardware known as coherent receivers) they are costly and only financially viable on a large scale
“Their cost and complexity has so far prevented their introduction into the access networks and limits the support of multi Gb/s (1 Gb/s=1000 Mb/s) broadband rates available to subscribers,” said co-author and head of the Optical Networks Group, Professor Polina Bayvel.
The new, simplified receiver keeps many of the advantages of coherent receivers, but is simpler, cheaper, and smaller, requiring just a quarter of the detectors used in standard models.
The team did this by using a coding technique on fibre access networks that was actually designed to prevent signal fading in wireless communications. This saves money because the same optical fibre is used for both upstream and downstream data.
This receiver offers customers a The team said it can co-exist with the current network infrastructure, potentially quadrupling the number of dedicated wavelength meaning speeds stay constant no matter how many users are online at once. er of users and doubling the network’s transmission distance/coverage.
The receiver was tested on a dark fibre network installed between Telehouse (east London), UCL (central London) and Powergate (west London). The team successfully sent data over 37.6 km and 108 km to eight users who were able to download/upload at a speed of at least 10 Gb/s. This is more than 30 times faster than the fastest broadband available in the UK today.
“BT Openreach recently announced that fibre access is a key focus and must improve. With high-capacity broadband a priority for the UK government, we will be working to reduce the electrical power requirements of this technique to make this commercially viable in the nearest future. We believe that it has real potential to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to every home, which will support the growing digitally enabled economy in the years to come,” concluded Professor Bayvel.