Fiber optics may be congested sooner than previously thought. Many people have typically, and incorrectly, thought that fiber optic technology is future proof. However, new study shows that fiber optics technology is rapidly approaching its theoretical limits and may require a radical redesign. A recent study shows that the current data transmission is 50% higher than the normal capacity of these cables.
A number of innovations can greatly increased data capacity of optical cables, for example by reducing the light absorption inside the cable to improve transmission quality and minimize errors. The idea that the current fiber technology has infinite capacity is wrong. We are beginning to reach the fundamental limits of the technology. We have to find a new breakthrough that will allow us to further increase capacity and meet the increasing demands.
There are several factors that should be improved, one of them is in how we encode light signals, but it is likely that the “radical” changes will in the fibers themselves. Although we can double the bandwidth by developing a completely new amplifier technology, it might be adequate for only two or three years of growth and that’s not enough. Scientists probably need to go back to the fundamentals of optics and it may take years to develop the next generation of cables.
Of course, the point at which the data required by Internet users go beyond the capacity depends only on how fast the demand increases, a figure that is very difficult to predict. A small change in the growth rate makes a big difference in the final numbers.
Today, video is the only application that pushes the limit of internet capacity. In the future, if you want to watch a video on YouTube, you may need to pay for it. We may need a campaign to urge people change their online behavior, to limit the growth of demand. Just like water and energy, Internet users must get used to the idea that bandwidth is not unlimited and it must be used wisely.