Faster Fiber Optic Transmissions on the Way Thanks to Combing

Keeping Up With Data Needs

A recent study has discovered a potential way to not only increase the speed of fiber optic transmissions, but double the capacity of fiber optic circuits. The process is referred to as combing, and it could be a big deal. With our society’s always increasing need for data to keep up with how we use said data, the pressure was on, as evidenced by Google being a partial supporter of the study, published in Science. Fiber optic cables haven’t necessarily been advancing as we’ve advanced our data consumption, and they have a troubling tendency to only take in so much data before the signal deteriorates. But if combing is the significant step the study implies it could be, then fiber optic cables may well be able to keep up with our data.

How Does Combing Work?

Scientists discovered during this study that it was possible to pre-distort data if it was transmitted via laser beams. Doing this allows the aforementioned data to be crushed and translated, even over larger distances than usual. Combing gets its name because the scientists used a frequency comb to pre-distort the data. The combing crunches the data before transmission. By doing this encoding, they successfully removed the noise that would have been present before the signal had reached the end of a cable. In doing this, the team of scientists and engineers from UC San Diego successfully sent data 7,456 miles. At no point in doing this did they need to boost the signal.

What Does This Mean For the Internet?

If combing is as big a deal as the study shows, we could be moving further towards an all optical network. Nikola Alic, co-author of the study, implied that this would not only allow for us to carry still more data, but it would also be less expensive than now. With the team supposedly able to dramatically increase the power of the laser beam via combing, the data was easily able to travel over much, much larger distances than before. It’s a large step forward in data transmission with great potential.


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