Scientists achieve fastest-ever internet speed that could download entire Netflix library in 1 second

Engineers from University College London have achieved the fastest-ever internet speed, a fifth faster than the previous record and one that is double the capacity of any data transmission system currently deployed in the world.

Researchers said the connection is so fast that it would be possible to download the entire Netflix library in less than a second.

The research team, led by Dr. Lidia Galdino with UCL Electronic & Electrical Engineering, created a data transmission rate of 178 terabits per second. This was achieved by transmitting data through a much wider range of colors of light, or wavelengths, than is typically used in optical fiber, the team said in a statement.

Dr Lidia Galdino with University College London’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering is pictured in a provided image. (Photo: James Tye / UCL)

The achievement is described in a new paper in IEEE Photonics Technology Letters. The previous world record was held by a team in Japan.

At this speed, it would take less than an hour to download the data that made up the world’s first image of a black hole — which had to be stored on half a ton of hard drives and transported by plane, according to the team.

The speed is also close to the theoretical limit of data transmission set out by American mathematician Claude Shannon in 1949.

“While current state-of-the-art cloud data-centre interconnections are capable of transporting up to 35 terabits a second, we are working with new technologies that utilise more efficiently the existing infrastructure, making better use of optical fibre bandwidth and enabling a world record transmission rate of 178 terabits a second,” Galdino said in the statement.

As the coronavirus pandemic has forced many people to quarantine at home, work remotely and shop online for essentials, demand for broadband communication services has skyrocketed.

Some companies have noted as much as a 60 percent increase in internet traffic compared to before the outbreak, the research team said.

The engineers said the technology could be used on already existing infrastructure and that it would be cost-effective. Users would need to upgrade the amplifiers that are located on optical fiber routes, according to the team.

Upgrading an amplifier would cost £16,000 ($21,000 USD), while installing new optical fibers can cost up to £450,000 ($589,000 USD) per kilometer in some urban areas.

“Independent of the Covid-19 crisis, internet traffic has increased exponentially over the last 10 years and this whole growth in data demand is related to the cost per bit going down,” Galdino said. “The development of new technologies is crucial to maintaining this trend towards lower costs while meeting future data rate demands that will continue to increase, with as yet unthought-of applications that will transform people’s lives.”

This story was reported from Cincinnati.