Scientists use Light, Sound to Produce 100 Gbps Internet

John Lister's picture

Researchers believe a new type of cable could carry Internet data at speeds 100 times greater than even the fastest on offer today. The new technology could benefit hospitals and research facilities in particular.

The technique was developed by researchers at universities in Leeds and Nottingham in the United Kingdom, and is based around similar technology found in fiber optic cables. Those are the fastest data-carrying cables and work by sending pulses of light down a tiny transparent tube.

By far, the greatest benefit of utilizing fiber optic cables is that it can transfer data over long distances without losing signal (up to 2km for example). With metal wires, this simply isn't possible, as the max distance for a similar application is around 328 feet. (Source:

Turn It Off And On Again

With the new research, the speed increase would come by using light in the terahertz range, which lies between microwaves and infra-red. It's something of a sweet spot for researchers as it has the potential for extremely fast data transfer without posing any health risks.

The biggest hurdle so far is that the laser which sends the light needs to be switched on and off very rapidly - in fact, around 100 billion times a second. So far that's proven impossible to do in a stable and controllable manner.

The new technique is particularly creative. In very simplified terms, it uses sound waves to cause a key part of the laser to vibrate. Each vibration diminishes the laser's output for a split-second.

There's still a long way to go, as right now the researchers are only able to reduce the light output by six percent. They believe in principle that the effect could be refined so that when the light output is reduced even more, it will have the same practical effect as switching the laser off and on again.

100 Gbps The Theoretical Limit

On paper at least, optic cables using terahertz frequency light could carry a signal of 100 gigabits per second. That's 100 times greater than the much-touted maximum speed offered by Google for home Internet, which is 1000 megabit, or 1 gigabit. It would also be more than 3,000 times greater than the average broadband speed in United States homes. (Source:

For the average household, having 100 gigabit Internet won't benefit faster movie downloads per se, but such whopping speeds could have some significant practical benefits. For example, it would make it much easier for hospitals to transfer extremely high-resolution images from scans and video imaging. It could also be possible to have a single cable take broadband to provide a usable high-speed service to an entire rural area.

What's Your Opinion?

What would you do with virtually unlimited broadband speeds? Is this a technology worth pursuing? Or would you prefer researchers to concentrate on ways to improve Internet reliability?

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plamonica_3840's picture

We have been testing LiFi in our lab now for a few years. I plan to install it to production this year. It is not only fast but secure, where the light cannot go neither can the data. It has many other applications for entertainment, security, speed. I can transmit to as many receivers as I want at once, use it next to an arc welder, underwater. I can change the data as people move to a new access point, there is no AC wiring required for lighting since the lights are also, well lights, running off the POE.

We will be demoing it at our "NH Cybersecurity Symposium at MCC" (Manchester Community College, the one in Manchester NH) March 10-12. If you are in the area stop by then or anytime to have a look. Ask for the Computer Science Department.