A new technology that applies the same principles used by ADSL to improve the capacity of data transfer over copper and wireless broadband could potentially increase the data capacity of optical fiber cables tenfold. It’s creators say the technology, known as optical Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (oOFDM), offers an inexpensive way drastically boost the capacity of increasingly strained broadband networks and improve download times around the world.

Australian researcher, Prof Arthur Lowery, who pioneered the innovation at Melbourne’s Monash University and has started a company, Ofidium, to commercialize the technology, uses a musical analogy to explain oOFDM. He likens existing data transmission to transmitting a series of single notes. Over long transmission distances, optical fiber dispersion ‘smears’ adjacent notes into one another. Dispersion management in these systems is complicated and expensive at 40Gbps, and will be more so at 100Gbps.

He says his oOFDM technology solves this problem by transmitting entire ‘chords’ of data. Since more data is packed together into the chord, more information can be sent in a way that is extremely robust to dispersion impairments over long transmission distances. The technology offers to increase long-haul capacity from the current transmission rate of 10Gbps to more than 100Gbps, over new and existing optical fiber.