NASA has been testing the use of laser beams to send data transmissions through space, and just broke records for speed. The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration, which uses a pulsed laser beam instead of radio waves, transmitted data at 622 MB per second from NASA's New Mexico ground station to spacecraft orbiting close to the Moon.
"LLCD is the first step on our roadmap toward building the next generation of space communication capability," said Badri Younes of NASA's comms and navigation department, SCaN. "We are encouraged by the results of the demonstration to this point, and we are confident we are on the right path to introduce this new capability into operational service soon." The two-way communication system will allow the agency to send higher-res images and 3-D video transmission from deep space.
Before anyone gets too excited about future domestic routers going, "pew pew pew," as we go about our daily chores, the fluctuations in the air's refractive properties limit usefulness. Those of us unable to slip the surly bonds of Earth should look more closely at Harald Haas's proposals to send data via a simple $3 LED lightbulb. The idea is similar to the Li-Fi technology currently being explored by a team at a Chinese university, where data is transmitted via a one-watt LED bulb equipped with a microchip.