Researchers have developed data transmission techniques that, they claim, could double or even triple the capacities of existing fibre broadband connections.
Uncovering the breakthrough at the Eindhoven University of Technology, the Dutch researchers worked alongside fibre broadband equipment supplier Genexis. However, they added that to enjoy this substantial increase in speed users would need to upgrade their modems.
Nevertheless, the new technique applies to passive optical networks, or "PONs", a type of connection which makes up roughly 80 per cent of fibre to the home connections worldwide.
"PONs typically connect 16 to 64 households to one fibre entering the street or district, but not all of them have the same connection quality," explained the researchers. "Since providers want to guarantee connectivity for everybody, current networks are over-dimensioned, leading to unused capacity."
The Dutch researchers found a clever and more cheap way to employ this extra capacity, depending on the actual signal quality for each user, using proven technology from wireless, coax and ADSL/VDSL communication.
"A normal signal consists of two states: a bit is either a one or a zero," said researcher Robbert van der Linden. "We have increased the number of states to four or even eight levels. A higher number of levels implies more information. This way we can transfer twice or even three times as much."
For further improved performance, he added that it is possible to transmit these levels with unequal distances between them. As the levels that are further apart are easier to distinguish and hence to decode, they require less high signal quality.
Therefore, the users further away are assigned the levels that are further apart, and the ones nearby the local station use the levels that are closer together. This effectively leads to an additional performance gain.
"We have demonstrated that by using only three different clock rates, already an increase in throughput of 180 per cent can be achieved," says Van der Linden.
The extra capacity these techniques make available comes from the high-quality connections close to the central data station. But as their capacity goes up, they require a shorter time to communicate. That means that more time becomes available for the users further away on the same PON, thereby also increasing their connection capacity.
The researchers are now looking to develop chips that incorporate the new techniques, the university said.
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