Your broadband could soon be 100 times faster

Broadband speeds in the UK are miserable. A 2017 study showed that Britain had the 20th fastest speed in Europe, lagging behind the likes of Sweden, Germany and Hungry with an average of 16.5Mbits/sec. Thankfully researchers at RMIT, Australia, have discovered a technique that could speed up our internet connections by a factor of over 100.

The snappily titled paper “Angular-momentum nanometrology in an ultrathin plasmonic topological insulator film”, published in Nature Communications, reveals fibre optic technology that could hugely increase internet bandwidth. By dividing the light information sent along fibre cables via Orbital Angular Momentum (OAM) RIMT researchers have potentially revolutionised fibre data transmissions.

OAM, a property of light, can be interpreted to measure how light twists as it travels through glass fibre. A chip, designed by researchers for the purpose, prompts and then catalogues up to 100 rates of twisting, therefore the current amount of information sent is also multiplied by 100. Essentially, this means the light is harnessed to send even more information.

Typically, glass fibre cables work by shooting beams of different colours down a cable — each colour contains a new stream of information to be deciphered on the receiving end. Breakthroughs in the tech have found ways to further divide each colour, and increase the amount of information sent along a cable. By using OAM, RMIT researchers have found another way to divide the information and increase bandwidth.

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Don’t expect to be able to download films and games in seconds just yet. Current fibre cables aren’t designed for this kind of usage, and modified cables would need to be laid to make the most of it. In addition, it doesn’t yet work at long enough distances to provide coverage for a whole city or country with high-speed internet.

But, while this technology is still a distant dream, it does show us that the potential exists for high-speed internet in the future. The only trouble is that it requires providers to be  willing to replace their current infrastructure.

It also suggests that fibre-optic connectivity is the internet of the future. Currently only a tiny fraction of the UK has access to a full-fibre network, which is something internet service providers definitely need to change.

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