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Aston based team to tackle the ‘capacity crunch’

An international communications project led by Aston University is set to tackle the growing worldwide internet 'capacity crunch' whilst reducing network energy consumption.

The project team believes a balance of digital, analogue electronic and optical processing will enable signals to be transmitted over an optical fibre with enough bandwidth to support 1million simultaneous mobile phone calls whilst halving energy consumption.

Aston's Professor Andrew Ellis is leading the Petabit Energy Aware Capacity Enhancement (PEACE). He said: "Since the introduction of direct dialling in 1950, we have seen a succession of applications affecting our network capacities. The boom in smart phone and tablet use is the latest phenomenon currently fuelling growing bandwidth. To facilitate the long term exponential expansion of bandwidth, optical intensities at the core of optical fibres have been steadily increased. However, they have been amplified to such an extent that they are now more intense than sunlight at the surface of the Earth's atmosphere, which results in significant signal distortion. It is this distortion which limits the amount of data which can be transmitted, leading to capacity crunch."

Prof Ellis is confident the project team and its industry partners can resolve significant issues associated with transporting the huge bandwidths which will be required across all aspects of future communication networks and associated power consumption. The team estimates the internet consumes more than 8% of the electricity generated by a developed country.

Professor Ellis, adds: "We will increase network capacity by maximising spectral use and developing techniques to combat the nonlinear effects induced by the high intensities encountered in today's networks. But equally importantly, by combining appropriate digital technique, such as those as those found in mobile phones, with analogue and optical signal processing, we will develop equipment for use in optical fibre networks with less than half of the energy consumption per bit of current products."

Graham Pitcher

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