As it stands now, cables and fiber optics that are used to transmit internet signals to computers and smartphones are expected to hit their limit within eight years, and so far, speed increases have helped keep ahead of the demand, reports The Daily Mail.
A meeting will be held at London’s Royal Society later this month among engineers, telecommunications firms, and physicists to discuss solutions, but once the infrastructure reaches its capacity, people around the world could face higher bills and trouble with service, warns Professor Andrew Ellis, one of the organizers of the upcoming summit.
‘We are starting to reach the point in the research lab where we can’t get any more data into a single optical fiber,” said Ellis, of Aston University in Birmingham, England. “The intensity is the same as if you were standing right up against the sun. The deployment to market is about six to eight years behind the research lab so within eight years that will be it, we can’t get any more data in.”
And as demand keeps growing, it’s harder to keep ahead of it, Ellis said.
“We have done very well for many years to keep ahead,” he said. “But we are getting to that point where we can’t keep going for ever. Unless we come forward with really radical ideas, we are going to see costs dramatically increase>”
The fibers in question are used to transmit information that is first transformed into light and then back into information. Internet firms have for years been sending more data through single fibers,which are the thickness of a strand of human hair, but the fibers are reaching their physical capacity.
And while companies can put down more lines, that will bring higher bills.
“Are we prepared to pay more? Or should we stop expanding capacity and put up with Netflix juddering?” the British professor said, warning that it takes large amounts of electricity to transfer online information.
“The Internet uses the same energy as the airline industry — about two per cent of a developed country’s entire energy consumption,” Ellis said. “That is just for the data transfer. If you then add the computers, the phones, the television, then it is up to eight per cent of [England’s] energy consumption.”
But other experts say the situation is not so dire. Andrew Lord, head of optical research at BT and a visiting professor at Essex University, says scientists will discover a solution, and storing information in “server farms” without transferring it could help.
“The Internet is not about to collapse,” said Lord, who will also speak at the summit. “It has a lot of bandwidth left in it.”
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