Breaking Fiber Optic Records, Creating a Fast Enough Future

Data Transmission The demand for bigger, faster data is growing with each passing year. Fortunately, transmission engineering is not too far behind.


As digital forms of media overtake physical mediums for the first time in history, the need for more capable Internet connections becomes increasingly apparent. People are asking for music, videos, photos, and everything in between at higher quality and reliability. Streaming and cloud services are surging in popularity, unable to catch their breath as demand for 4K video and virtual reality rolls around the corner.

Taking 4K video as an example, computers would need to stream more than 3 gigabytes of data per minute. The sheer size of these new forms of media requires a top-down reimagining of already “bleeding edge” technology, from their memory capacity, read-write speeds, and of course, Internet connection.


Engineers from the University of Illinois have recently made headway in sharpening this technological edge, setting a new record for fiber optic data transmission. They have successfully debunked theories regarding the limits of the technology’s data capacity.

The researchers were able to transmit 57 gigabytes/second of data at room temperature without any errors. This proves that even the most advanced fiber optic transceivers, such as the Cisco SFP-10G-SR, are still far from reaching their respective ceiling of potential.

Professor Milton Feng, the project’s lead engineer, mentions how the discovery improves upon findings from only two years ago, when the record was set to 40 GB/s. He mentions the speed by which advancements in fiber optic technology are emerging, and how it influences the speed of adoption for future technology.

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“There is a lot of data out there, but if your data transmission is not fast enough, you cannot use data that’s been collected; you cannot use upcoming technologies that use large data streams, like virtual reality,” Feng explains. “The direction toward fiber-optic communication is going to increase because there’s a higher speed data rate, especially over distance,” he adds.