Transmitting data over optical fiber is one of the fastest methods available, and researchers at the University of Southampton have managed to dial up the speed even further.
Being optical in nature, light is used to transmit data over fiber. The speed of light through a vacuum is 299,792,458 meters per second, but traditional fiber is not nearly that fast due to light traveling approximately 31% slower (206,856,796.02 m/s) through silica glass than a vacuum.
The new fiber employs a hollow design that allows light to travel through air rather than glass while still allowing the cable to bend and twist around corners. The new fiber has been dubbed Hollow Core Photonic Bandgap Fiber, or HC-PBGF, and allows light to travel up to about 298,893,080.63 m/s (~99.7% the speed of light). Currently, the HC-PBGF fiber is still in the experimental phase, but it could have big implications for data centers and HPC server clusters that depend on high bandwidth, low latency connections between individual nodes.
Just how fast is the new HC-PBGF? According to ExtremeTech, a researcher told the site that the new fiber has a total cable throughput of 73.7 Tbps. It transmits 3 modes of 96 channels of 256 Gbps each using a combination of wave division multiplexing and mode division multiplexing. The fiber is 160nm and is noticeably faster than traditional fiber. Additionally, the HC-PBGF has a data loss of 3.5 dB/km which makes it a useful candidate for short runs between nodes or rows of racks, but not yet suitable for longer runs. HC-PBGF will not be blanketing your neighborhood anytime soon, but the research may lead to new optical networking technologies used in the next supercomputer or cloud service, for example.
The full paper can be found here, along with more details over at Ars Technica. Unfortunately, the full paper is behind a paywall but it may be worth seeing your school or work can give you access should you be interested in drilling into the details of the experimental hollow fiber,.