Researchers Demonstrate Repeaterless Fiber Technology That Could Dramatically Beef-Up The Internet Backbone

Researchers at the University of California in San Diego have just crafted a new fiber optic technology which could dramatically improve our Internet's backbone, as well as reduce costs.

While fiber optic connections to the Internet are a luxury for home and business, they're imperative for the outside sources that bring us our data. The backbone of the entire Internet is laced head-to-toe in fiber, as it's the only possible option for delivering and sustaining the bandwidth needed to serve everyone. But, its current design has a couple of caveats.

At the forefront, current technology doesn't allow signals to be sent without some severe distortion -- severe enough that the receiving routers would be unable to decipher it. To get around that issue, Internet providers have had to opt for signal repeaters, which pick up the signal at a certain point and send out a fresh copy of the data to the next one, or the destination.

Fiber Optic Cable
Flickr: x_tine

While that implementation works, it adds latency to the transfer and also adds a lot to the cost of the interconnect. The end goal is to send a signal with enough power so that these repeaters are no longer needed, in effect taking care of two of the biggest issues in one fell swoop.

That's just what these researchers have done. In tests, they were able to send a signal a staggering 12,000 kilometers (~7,456 miles) and successfully decode the received data.

UC San Diego's research team figured out this solution by realizing that the distortion seen without repeaters wasn't random, but instead the result of fixed physical laws. Where things are really interesting is that the signal isn't received in pristine shape without a repeater, but its degradation is so predictable that a "frequency comb" at the end point is able to decipher any potential data anomalies.

While it seems unlikely that benefits of such technology would affect end-users right away, it could be a very important step in dealing with our ever-expanding Internet.