Data-carrying properties of light could help with broadband bandwidth demands

Blue and red fibre optical cables

Researchers are currently exploring the possibility that there might be a way to increase the data-carrying properties of light and therefore solve the global demand for bandwidth issue. It’s thought that by putting not just one, but two beams of light down a fibre will cause them to create a mirror image of each other and as a result, increase speeds.

Researchers reporting in Nature Photonics are currently testing the theory and the results have so far been promising. The team used the dual light technique to successfully send a signal of 400Gb/s – four times faster than the best commercially available broadband speeds – down 12,800 km of optical fibre which is even further than the longest trans-oceanic fibre link.  Positive results over that speed and distance would mean the theory should also work for realistic commercial and domestic speeds and distances.

What has previously stopped researchers from revolutionising this idea is the fact that although the distance a light signal can go is determined by how much power is in the beam, the more power there is, the more the light produced interacts with the material of the fibre meaning that it won’t get through over longer distances.  This reaction adds ‘noise’ to the beam, which in turn limits the fidelity with which data can be transmitted.

The current theory being tested – known as phase conjugation – could be just what has been needed to undo this ‘noise.’ Results are currently showing that when recombined on the receiving end, the noise that the signals gather in the fibre cancels out and therefore, the paired beams should be able to travel four times further than a single one.

Dr Liu, of Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, who is heading up the project, has said that looking back, the concept is simple, but for some reason nobody has ever tried it before. If successful, it is hoped that the concept can help satisfy the demand worldwide for more broadband bandwidth and faster communications. As Internet usage continues to go up with the increasing use of mobile devices, wireless networks have been edging near capacity – a problem that could pose a threat to price, performance and even innovation.

With wireless bandwidth becoming increasingly valuable because currently there isn’t more of it available, concerns have started to arise as there isn’t more being done about the problem. It is an issue that is becoming even more worrying if you take into consideration that with advances in connected cars, machine-to-machine communication and domestic installations such as at-home health monitoring systems, wireless demands will only increase.

Only time will tell if Dr Liu and his team’s research will provide valuable findings when it comes to solving the problem of demand for bandwidth increasing. If successful, the research could prove absolutely vital to ensure that users can maintain the levels of Internet usage they are used to.

Dr Liu said

“We need to solve some of the fundamental problems to sustain the capacity growth.”