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article imageBT demos broadband that downloads 200 HD movies in a second

By James Walker     May 26, 2016 in Technology
UK internet service provider BT has successfully completed a trial of prototype broadband infrastructure with download speeds of up to 5.6Tbps. While still a long way from being publicly available, the technology could transform how we connect online.
The demonstration was conducted in conjunction with Huawei. The firms used a live core network between BT's development labs in Adastral Park, Ipswich, London and the BT Tower in London.
Total data transfer rates of 5.6Tbps were observed in the single fibre-optic network connection used. BT previously set a record of 3Tbps in trials it conducted in 2014. The company achieved the new result by combining 28 200Gbps fibre channels into a single cable. The overall speed would allow you to download 200 HD films in a single second.
BT said that employing Terabit superchannels for broadband will allow it to avoid a "capacity crunch" in the future as more bandwidth is consumed by the addition of new devices. It will be able to extend its existing fibre networks by upgrading its transponders to new flexible rate ones.
"BT scientists built the first commerical single mode optical fibre link back in 1984 and the BT Labs remain at the forefront of photonics research more than thirty years later," said Howard Watson, CEO of BT Technology, Services & Operations. "The core network is our superhighway of the internet. It's important that our core networks keep pace with the growth in bandwidth demands driven by take-up of high-speed fibre broadband, HD content, 4G smartphones and tablets and in the future, 5G services."
The current record for the highest data rate on a single fibre channel is 1.125Tb/s. In comparison, BT's 200Gbps channels are relatively slow but more feasible to roll out commercially. That doesn't mean 5.6Tbps broadband is coming anytime soon though. The test was purely an experiment that is unlikely to come to consumer infrastructure in its current form at all.
However, BT has also demonstrated another next-generation broadband network that is a lot closer to completion. This week, it achieved the fastest ever transfer speed over a live core network link, observing a rate of 2Tbps. It used over 700km of cable stretching between London and Dublin.
The connection was based on existing commercial hardware. It shows that BT could improve the speed of its current networks through the use of Terabit superchannels. "These landmark trials show that we can easily turn up the dial to deliver the speeds needed in our core networks to stay well ahead of rising customer demand," said Watson.
Zah Jun, President of Huawei Fixed Network Product Line, described the trials as a "big step forward." "Ultra-High-Speed optical networks are an indispensable infrastructure for the future of digital life, and this is an area where Huawei is investing, to help telcos such as BT squeeze as much capacity out of their core networks as possible," he said.
These future technologies may still be years away but they prove that fibre optic cables are going to remain relevant for decades to come. Wireless technology is also developing, setting new speed records of its own. Earlier this week, researchers in Germany successfully transferred data wirelessly at 6Gbps, indicating future networking will be superfast regardless of the connection type.
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