Fibre networks’ data capacity is running out faster than expected, a report from the University of Southampton has claimed.
If left unattended, the situation could result in a “capacity crunch” which might seriously constrain the future growth of the internet, the report suggested.
There could also be social and political consequences as well if “radical innovation” in the physical network infrastructure is not brought about.
“A growing realisation has emerged within the telecommunications industry that the end of the phenomenal growth in optical fibre communication capacity is within sight,” said David Richardson, from the university’s Optoelectronics Research Centre, in a paper published in thr journal Science.
Specifically, he called for “improvements in the key physical properties of transmission fibres and the optical amplifiers that we rely on to transmit data over long distances.”
“The thought that the current fibre technology has infinite capacity is not true - we are beginning to hit the fundamental limits of the current technology,” Richardson told the BBC.
"We need to be looking at the next big breakthrough to allow us to continue to scale as we have traditionally done."
Richardson suggested to fix the problem, scientists would have to go “back to the fundamentals of the optics, the actual light pipes.”
Meanwhile, BT is pressing ahead with its fibre efforts and earlier this month announced a nationwide survey to garner how the level of fibre broadband support differs between parts of the UK.
The findings will guide which parts of the UK will be the next to receive fibre services.
And Australia is also pressing ahead with its own fibre build.