Users can look forward to a pan-European network of huge fibre-optic cables with the capacity to transmit 1,540Tb of data per second - roughly equivalent to an entire week of the world's present Internet traffic.
The petabit (1,000 terabits) network is being built by Interoute Communications.
It is scheduled for completion at the end of 2000.
It will use DWDM (dense wave division multiplexing) technology with SDH (synchronous digital hierachy) transmission and contain up to five ducts, each of which will contain 192 fibre pairs.
London-based Interoute has created a separate company, i-21, to run the £1.3 billion construction project; it has contracted Alcatel of France to design, install and support the 8,000,000Km of advanced G.655 fibre-optic cable across 17 European countries.
Phase 1, digging and construction, has begun in London and other major European cities and is scheduled for May completion next year, Interoute said.
Phase 2 - to link the big pipes ringing those cities with the rest of the network - is targeted for December 2000 completion.
The project is a dark-fibre network that cannot be used until leasing companies supply their own transmission facilities. Each fibre pair would have the capacity to carry up to 160 light channels, or lamdas, running at 10Gbps each.
Interoute said it is confident that once the system is operational, the company could charge less than competing networks for bandwidth in its pipes.
Talks with telecoms companies, including Cable & Wireless, are already under way, said Interoute, which said it is willing to offer a full network service for individual companies. Leasing charges have not been released, and the choice of router has yet to be decided.
Mark Lambert, telecoms analyst at Merrill Lynch, reflected on the enormous boost in data speeds that such next-generation networks will offer.
"We can't imagine what the future will be," he told PC Week, "but the current network of one big US network supplier will only hold three simultaneous holographic conversations."
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