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Web Surfing that Feels Instantaneous, Even Though It's Not

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Instead of buried cables, the new network cuts trading times by using microwave radio transmissions to carry data through the air, where signals can travel 50% faster than light through fiber.

Credit: Bruce Maggs

Researchers at Duke University, the University of Illinois, Yale University, and Switzerland's ETH Zurich have developed a design for a speed-of-light Internet network across 120 U.S. cities.

Rather than relying on buried fiber optic cables that zigzag across the landscape, the network would carry data wirelessly via microwave radio transmissions, since signals travel through air 50% faster than light traveling through fiber.

The approach is based on a custom-built network from the early 2010s that reduced the time needed to transmit data between the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and stock exchanges in New Jersey by a few thousandths of a second.

The researchers estimate data transmission over such a network would cost 81 cents per gigabyte, and would reduce lag to within 5% of what is possible at light speed.

From Duke Today
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