Internet Space Crunch

The Internet Is Almost Full

"The internet's fibre systems could reach capacity within the next five years."

"Fear of a capacity crunch stems from a hard physical truth—there is a limit to the amount of information you can cram down any communications channel, fibre-optic cable or copper wire. Discovered in 1940 by Claude Shannon, this limit depends on the channel's bandwidth—the number of frequencies it can transmit—and its signal-to-noise ratio."

The known tricks for forcing more and more along an optical cable have played out. Current research shows that the limit is about 100 terabits per second. That's approximately equivalent to 250 Blue-ray discs.

But, not to worry about using Netflix just yet. People are exploring and developing new tools. One analyzes interference and makes reconstructing the correct signal possible at the receiving end. Another is exploring the tricky process of combining multiple cable cores into a multi-core cable. This is tricky because when travelling distances, the cables must stay straight. Maybe that is not exactly optimal for trans-ocean routes—or even for a few kilometers.

"I don’t see a crisis.” "I've got a lot of faith in the ingenuity of people to keep delivering the goods," said a researcher at the UK firm British Telecom.

From New Scientist, 23 May 2015, p. 20.

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