The internet has more than one capacity problem to worry about, apparently. Researchers met in London this week to tackle growing concerns that fiber optic cables, which represent the internet’s backbone, are hitting their physical limits. An Alcatel-Lucent representative warned that we could hit this barrier, about 100 terabits per second, in five years — not good news when 8K video and other data-hungry technologies are just over the horizon. The only conventional solution would be to add more cables, which isn’t always practical.
Thankfully, the gathering also discussed some unconventional ways of getting around this seemingly insurmountable barrier. One technique would ramp up the power in fiber and use calculations to reconstruct a usable signal on the other end, while another would involve fibers with multiple cores that offer much more bandwidth in a similar space. The challenge is putting these theories into practice before it’s too late. As with processors, there’s no guarantee that big breakthroughs will come in the nick of time.
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