“Internet at ‘warp’ speed, surfing at the speed of light

We all wish that the internet, upon which increasingly every aspect of our existence depends,

whether for business or pleasure was a lot faster, or better still, ‘instantaneous’, to achieve maximal social and economic benefits.

At the moment, South Korea has, by far, the fastest internet speed based on Akamai data and other external testing. Average internet speed in South Korea was 21.1Mbps above the global average in Q4 of 2015. An incredible 62.6% of internet connections in this country connect at speeds above 15Mbps.

Fibre networks can achieve much more. Researchers from the Netherlands and the US have smashed the world speed record for a fibre network, pushing 255 terabits [1012bits] per second.

However, even these speeds are nothing compared with what the future holds with

“photonic” networks. For Professor Benjamin Eggleton, Director of the Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS),  photonics promises to revolutionise the internet once again through the ‘photonic chip‘, which could allow for speeds and data transfer a thousand times faster than current levels. New research has found, for the first time, a scientific solution that enables future internet infrastructure to become completely open and programmable while carrying internet traffic at the speed of light.

Current internet infrastructure is unable to support independent development and innovation at physical and network layer functionalities, protocols, and services, while at the same time supporting the increasing bandwidth demands of changing and diverse applications.

Dimitra Simeonidou, Professor of High Performance Networks has stated that: “New internet technologies frequently emerge, but most of them rarely result in new and revolutionary internet applications. However, Scientists and engineers from the University of Bristol have developed a solution that uses Software Defined Networking (SDN) technology to hide the complexities of an optical network so that developers can build apps to run on a light-based internet without needing to understand the science behind it.

“Photonic networks use light, so they’re not like a traditional network where you can store the data in a chip or programme, the data as a bit with a binary value of 0 and 1,” says Dr Reza Nejabati, a reader in optical networks in the high performance networks (HPN) group with University of Bristol’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering told IBTimes UK: “It’s light so you can’t store it. We try to use the physical characteristics of the silicon devices to manipulate and direct the light into optical networking – a technology that currently only a few companies in the world, like Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco, understand how to do, which gives them a monopoly.”

Being able to hide all technical complexities means that regular software developers will soon begin to develop new applications for the internet that we can’t even imagine, rather than the internet being restricted as it is today by physical and network layer functionalities, protocols and services.

Currently, broadband providers have to buy network infrastructure technology from Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco and it doesn’t work unless they spend a lot of money to buy all the equipment and nodes. But for a provider like BT or Virgin Media, they would like to see as many applications developed for their network, as if they sell more applications, they can offer more services.

Dr. Nejabati anticipates that developers would create apps, such as making the Netflix app work with 4K TVs to provide fast, super HD video streaming, and users would simply go to the internet app store, just like a mobile app store, buy an app, download and then use it.

Apart from making the internet open for new services, having a light-based internet would also enable providers to cope with increasing bandwidth demands from customers, and in the future, people could even build their own parallel internets with these apps just to connect their offices to their homes.