Fastest Internet Speed Record Destroyed

John Lister's picture

The new record for fastest Internet connection is quick enough to download everything on Netflix in under a second. It's safe to say the average home user won't see such speeds, but the techniques used to achieve the speeds could benefit everyone.

The transfer was done over a fiber-optic cable between computers 25 miles apart. It reached a peak speed of 178 terabits per second. That's around 20 percent faster than the previous record and five times the speed of the fastest connections currently in regular use, namely cables running between machines in data centers.

University College London, which oversaw the tests, says the speed was very close to that which mathematician Claude Shannon calculated was the absolute maximum possible thanks to the laws of the physics - a calculation made way back in 1949. (Source:

Amplification Boosted

The transmission used the same technology as standard fiber optic communications, namely encoding data as pulses of light that pass along transparent cables. They did this in two ways, with the first being to more efficiently boost the power of the signal to pass over long distances. This involved adding rarely used elements to the glass at the start of the cable. (Source:

The second technique was using a wider range of wavelengths of light, thus allowing more data to pass through the same cable.

The good news is that the new techniques can be relatively easily fitted to existing Internet cables. The researchers at UCL say all that's needed is an upgrade to the amplifiers that relay the signal every 40 to 100 kilometers. That would cost around $21,000 per amplifier compared with a cost of installing new optical cable that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilometer.

Networks May Cope With Capacity Better

The obvious hitch for the ordinary home users is that the connection is only as fast as its weakest point, which will often be the website's server, the connection from the user's home to the fiber network, or the user's home wireless network.

The real difference will instead likely be the fact that the same cable could cope with high demand from more users across a wide area without getting "clogged up".

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think technologies such as this will mean your home Internet speed improves? What's more important to you: speed or reliability? Are you more concerned about other factors such as data caps or a bigger choice of providers?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I'm wondering what kind of Ethernet card they used to achieve 178 terabits? It must have been 2 x 1 terabit cards bridged together, since that max speed is 1 terabit per card.

Gurugabe's picture

If the connection was just between two computers, the term would not be internet. Wouldn't it just be a network connecting two systems?

Dennis Faas's picture

Perhaps the most correct term would be Intranet - but since Universities are typically at the forefront of major Internet backbone connections at the fastest speeds (for faculty / students / research purposes), it would not be too far of a stretch to say that this would be considered an Internet connection.

Gurugabe's picture

Peer to peer is what I was thinking of since it is just two systems. Yes, universities are the front end of many innovations, but lately the ones for super speed fiber have not come through and still only exist in those test environments.

doulosg's picture

The linked article uses the phrase "cloud data-centre interconnections," although not necessarily as a label for this specific connection.

As to your question, Dennis, I think there may be some slow [attempted pun] improvement in home internet speeds. We are having trouble getting 1G fiber available even now. What would it take to get 5G or 100G into the home?

The other factor is that with speed comes bloat - excuse me - greater use of that bandwidth.

Thankfully, the signal-to-noise ratio in the OS seems to have improved since the 90's and 00's. Hopefully this will also occur in the network.

Jim's picture

178Tbps would be 22.25TBps. I'm pretty sure Netflix is bigger than 22.25TB.

doulosg's picture

Wouldn't 178 terrabytes per second for [about] a second be [about] 178 terrabytes? I don't see why you divided 178 by 8 (= 22.25).

dan400man's picture

There are 8 bits to a byte. The speed record is 178 terabits per second. Divide the number of terabits by 8 to get terabytes.

*bits are commonly used in specifying data transmission speeds. *bytes are commonly used in specifying the amount of data storage.