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Hollow fiber-optic cables make 10 Terabyte-per-second Internet possible

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If you think your Verizon FiOS Quantum service is fast, you’ll be blown away by these Internet speeds that literally run at the speed of light (almost). Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK have come up with a hallow-core cable design that can move data at 10 Terabytes-per-second. To put that into perspective, FiOS speeds are still measured in megabytes, and the top download speed is 300 Mbps.

Because air can help make data travel faster through light, the scientists are able to drastically improve speeds by hallowing out optical fibers and filling them mostly with air. That way, data can move at 99.7 percent at the speed of light inside a vacuum. Current optical fibers are made of glass (silica glass), which slows down how quickly light can travel by 31 percent when compared to its speed inside a vacuum, according to the team’s findings published on Nature.com.

The idea of filling an optical cable with air to help light move more quickly is not new, but this UK team is the first to be able to reduce data loss (3.5 dB/km) and latency while keeping the bandwidth wide (160nm) with its hallow-core cable that use an “ultra-thin photonic-bandgap rim,” according to ExtremeTech.

While we can’t wait to experience what a 10-Teratype-per-second  Internet will be like (think of all the 4K HD movies we will be able to download in the blink of an eye), we have to inject a dose of reality here. No matter how quickly light travels, one of its biggest drawback is that it can’t bend and round corners. Unfortunately, this means this speed-of-light-fast cable won’t work very well in a home, but could offer a significant speed boost to a data center with shorter cables that connect to racks of supercomputers.