Experimental networking tech beams data across the room with light

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You may not be able to get beamed up to the Enterprise any time soon, but you may one day be able to beam data around your living room—literally.

Researchers at Oxford University have developed a technology that, according to IEEE Spectrum, “takes light from [fiber optic data lines], amplifies it, and beams it across a room.” The resulting system can transmit data at up to 100 gigabits per second (Gbps).

At 100Gbps, this technology transmits data at a rate that far exceeds current commercially available wireless networking technology. By comparison, 802.11ac, the current state-of-the-art for Wi-Fi, has a maximum data rate of about 7 to 10Gbps. And Oxford’s researchers say this is only the start—the research team says it may be capable of data rates exceeding 3 terabits per second.

That’s a lot of data.

There are some obvious limitations to this sort of technology. Since it uses light to transmit data, you need a clear line of sight between the transceivers, so beaming data through walls would be out of the question. According to IEEE Spectrum, the research team is working “to develop a tracking and location system so that a user could place a laptop at a random spot on a table and have the system find it and create a link.”

You likely won’t see a 100Gbps connection in your home any time soon, especially considering that cable Internet connections top out in the 150-megabit range today. Still, with our insatiable appetite for bandwidth, it isn’t unreasonable to think that we might someday see something like Oxford’s networking technology in our homes.

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