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Researchers get record broadband speeds out of old-school copper wire

Matt Brian, @m4tt
07.10.14
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While telecoms companies around the world are investing millions into the development of fiber-optic networks, the standard copper telephone line may still have some life in it yet. Experts at Alcatel Lucent's Bell Labs research division are claiming a new world record by achieving super-fast speeds through the aging technology. Researchers were able to achieve 10Gbps speeds with the same cables you'd find under many residential streets.

The goal here isn't just to push boundaries, but to give telecoms companies the chance to use their existing infrastructure to deliver internet speeds capable of rivaling fiber networks. While the speed is certainly impactful, Alcatel's prototype technology is currently limited by its transmission range. Bell Labs achieved 10Gbps speeds over a distance of 30 meters and simultaneous upload and download speeds of 1 Gbps over 70 meters, meaning companies would have to work a lot harder to make this work from the exchange to your home (cabinets are often supplied by fiber connections but rely on older copper lines to relay that service to you). Those providers are only now trialing the standard on which Bell Labs' new technology expands upon, meaning you'll likely have to wait a couple of years to see those ridiculous internet speeds, with symmetrical 1Gbps the more likely. That's if they don't decide fiber is the better option.

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