Piet Demeester, Head of IDLab, an imec research group at Ghent University
The mainstream adoption of cloud computing applications and the projected, sevenfold increase in global mobile data traffic between 2016 and 2021 are just some of the recent trends that continue to boost the demand for high-speed broadband. To cater for that need, the international research community has increasingly been focusing on advancing optical communication systems, using light to transport huge amounts of data from one place to another.
The need for (ever more) speed
To transmit those light beams – and the data they carry – optical communication systems make use of optical fibers; flexible, transparent (glass or plastic) fibers with a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair. Compared to legacy (copper) cables, they enable data to be transmitted over longer distances, considerably faster.
At the September ’17 European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC), for instance, Japanese researchers presented a massive breakthrough in terms of how much data can be transmitted through a single optical fiber – reaching a transmission speed of 10 petabits (10 million gigabits) per second; a landslide achievement that will undoubtedly revolutionize the way in which intercontinental fiber-optic communication networks will be built and operated going forward.