Think ADSL broadband is old hat and fiber is the future? Think again: Researchers at Alcatel Lucent have worked out how to get data rates of 300 Mbps over normal copper telephone wires. That, in case you didn't know, is fast.
Most broadband that comes to your home over telephone wires uses an electromagnetic/signal processing trick called asymmetric digital subscriber lines—ADSL. With tweaks to the technology, this system can be pushed to achieve data rates as high as 24 Mbps, but typically you'd never see this kind of speed coming to the router in your house—for a whole bunch of reasons—with maximum speeds somewhere near 10 Mbps. Nevertheless, ADSL (and its equivalents in broadband tech, such as over-cable systems) has been such a paradigm shift over dial-up technology that it's transformed how the general population sees the Internet.
Now, of course, there are schemes to deliver fiber optics to your door to deliver even faster data—FiOS. One village in the U.K. recently collaborated and pooled their resources to pay for a dedicated fiber Net connection, making them the fastest Net village in Britain. And the light-based tech is very much one way of delivering the kind of nationwide broadband plans that President Obama has in mind. But fiber isn't going to arrive everywhere anytime soon. Hence the interest in developing alternative technologies to fill the capability gap before fiber becomes the dominant technology.
Alcatel's nerds have been playing with a system called Very High Bitrate Digital Subscriber Line, which is already faster than ADSL, and they've boosted its speed even more. They've been pairing groups of copper cables together, in a technique called bonding, and they've developed a kind of digital noise cancellation system that ensures that really high data rates can be achieved. As a result the experimental VDSL2 equipment can transmit digital signals at a stonking 300 Mbps over a distance of around 400 meters.
The one question, of course, is how much this sort of tech would cost you as a Net subscriber. Since you're buying, in effect, two phone lines to your home you may expect to pay more than you do now...but ISPs will have to price this service carefully, below what fiber-speed broadband can deliver.
Image via Flickr user Rennett Stowe
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