IBM scientists are preparing to reveal a prototype optical transceiver chipset which they claim is capable of boosting data speeds by a factor of eight.
With a potential transfer speed of 160Gbps the transceiver is fast enough to reduce the download time for a typical high-definition feature-length film from 30 minutes or more to a single second.
Optical networking offers the potential to dramatically improve data transfer rates by speeding the flow of data using light pulses instead of sending electrons over wires.
"The explosion in the amount of data being transferred, when downloading movies, TV shows, music or photos, is creating demand for greater bandwidth and higher speeds in connectivity," said Dr T C Chen, vice president of science & technology at IBM Research.
"Greater use of optical communications is needed to address this issue. We believe our optical transceiver technology may provide the answer."
As the amount of data transmitted over networks continues to grow, researchers have been looking for ways to make the use of optical signals more practical.
The ability to use these signals could offer previously unheard of amounts of bandwidth and enhanced signal fidelity compared to current electrical data links.
By shrinking and integrating the components into one package, and building them with standard low-cost, high-volume chip manufacturing techniques, IBM claims that it is making optical connectivity viable for widespread use.
To achieve this new level of integration in the chipset, IBM researchers built an optical transceiver with driver and receiver integrated circuits in current CMOS technology.
CMOS is the same standard, high-volume, low-cost technology used for most of today's chips.
The researchers then coupled the transceiver with other necessary optical components into a single integrated package only 3.25mm by 5.25mm in size.
IBM reckons it will take around three years until suppliers can produce enough parts to bring optical transceivers into its product stream.
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