Wi-Fi pushed to the limit with new 100Gbps transmitter, THz waves

Posted Feb 11, 2016 by James Walker
A team of Japanese researchers have developed a Wi-Fi transmitter capable of sustaining a 100 gigabit per second connection speed. The breakthrough, using very short waves, lets mobile devices download an HD film in under a second.
Connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot
Connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot
The group, supported by Panasonic, works out of Hiroshima University and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology. This week, it succeeded in creating a Wi-Fi router with a combined multi-channel data rate in excess of 100 gigabits per second.
The technology is based on radio waves with a frequency in the terahertz (THz) band and a very short wavelength of less than a millimetre. The frequency band has yet to be allocated so the system cannot be used commercially. The team will be aiming to get THz waves dedicated to Wi-Fi devices at the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019.
With gigabit-per-second Internet connections now available in several cities worldwide, access to very high-speed broadband is slowly becoming more widespread. Several parties are already developing 100Gbps fibre networks for deployment but today this level of service would be wasted on nearly everyone who signed up. The customers would never get to experience the connection's full potential, limited by the comparatively sluggish data rate of even the best Wi-Fi routers.
A modern high-end 802.11ac router, used by an 802.11ac-compatible device, is likely to advertise a data rate somewhere around 2000Mbps. Even if that speed was actually experienced in real usage, it still equals just 2Gbps — 2 percent of the bandwidth offered by the Internet connection that is likely to become available in homes over the next decade.
Technology like that shown off in Japan this week is therefore an essential step forward for Wi-Fi as it tries to keep up with the broadband it is paired with. The researchers behind the 100Gbps connection already have their sights set further ahead though, aiming to develop even faster terabit connections in the near future.
Professor Minoru Fujishima, of the Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter at Hiroshima University, said to PhysX: "Today, we usually talk about wireless data-rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But I foresee we'll soon be talking about terabits per second. That's what THz wireless technology offers. Such extreme speeds are currently confined in optical fibers. I want to bring fiber-optic speeds out into the air, and we have taken an important step toward that goal."
For consumers, even 100Gbps Wi-Fi is still several years away though. The researchers have so far only built a transmitter and need to create a receiver and test devices as part of their continuing work in the field. With the World Radiocommunication Conference - where the usage of the THz band will be discussed - still over three years away, this isn’t a technology that Wi-Fi routers will be touting on their boxes anytime soon.
In the meantime, other technologies are already being developed in preparation for the next stage of the wireless world. Li-Fi, a light-based alternative to Wi-Fi, is currently receiving a lot of attention and is able to reach speeds of 224 gigabits per second — 124 percent greater than the Wi-Fi transmitter developed this week. Li-Fi is also very much work-in-progress though so for now traditional 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi remains the wireless connection best suited to the majority of mobile devices.