Boosting anemic broadband speeds and wireless networks stuck in
the 20th century
By Adam M. BrightPosted 02.02.2010 at 10:34 am 11 Comments
The U.S. ranks 17th worldwide in broadband access, but not for long—last year's stimulus package allotted $7.2 billion for upgrading our underperforming broadband infrastructure. Our legacy copper wiring just can't carry the data to support HD-video streaming, for instance, and next-gen wireless networks are slower to roll out than in, say, Japan, because of the sheer size of this country. But advances in fiber-optic cables and broadband blimps could bring serious speed increases to homes and smartphones.
In a world of real-time Twitter search and smartphones that whisk pictures and videos around a very mobile Web, it's hard to believe that data transfer rates to and from space often border on dial-up speeds. The ISS is one of the most advanced pieces of technology man has ever dreamed up, yet crew members got their first Internet connection just last week.
If it were up to us, everything would be faster by at least one order of magnitude, but the laws of physics often get in the way of unlimited speed and efficiency. Take fiber optic data transfer: the pulses of light carrying data through the worldwide network of fiber optics move really fast, but alas, cannot go any faster than they do. However, scientists at Cornell University have figured out a way to pack more data into those pulses of light, using a system they're calling a "time telescope," which has the potential to increase fiber optic data speeds by 27 times.