Aston University is leading a £1.5m international project that aims to cut network energy use and solve a "worldwide internet capacity crunch".
The university said it hoped the Petabit Energy Aware Capacity Enhancement (PEACE) project will ensure that mobile networks do not buckle under the strain caused by the rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets.
Aston University's Professor Andrew Ellis, who is leading the project, said that PEACE will boost bandwidth on optical fibre networks, which he said carry over 99 percent of all data.
"Since the introduction of direct dialling in 1950 we have seen a long succession of applications affecting our network capacities. The boom in smartphone and tablet use is the latest phenomenon currently fuelling growing bandwidth. To facilitate the long-term exponential expansion of bandwidth, optical intensities at the core of optical fibres have been steadily increased," said Ellis.
"However, they have been amplified to such an extent that they are now more intense than sunlight at the surface of the Earth's atmosphere, which results in significant signal distortion. It is this distortion which limits the amount of data which can be transmitted, leading to capacity crunch.
"This capacity crunch, if allowed to happen, could seriously impact upon the internet's future growth. This could lead to increased price or bandwidth rationing, both of which have undesirable consequences for society and the economy."
The project has the backing of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, BT Innovate and Phoenix Photonics.
Ellis expects the initiative to have far-reaching benefits.
"Since over 99 percent of all data passes through optical fibre, by supporting the continued increase in the bandwidth of fibre networks we can impact the lives of nearly every person in the United Kingdom," he said.
"We will increase network capacity by maximising spectral use, and developing techniques to combat the nonlinear effects induced by the high intensities encountered in today's networks."
Capacity crunch on networks, both fixed and mobile, is a major challenge that is being considered in many areas of the tech sector. Ofcom recently outlined plans to move TV spectrum again to free up more mobile broadband capacity.
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