It is sometimes difficult to comprehend the explosive growth in data transmission rates over the last thirty years. We’ve moved from 56k dial up modems in the 1990s to a US government target to deliver speeds of 1 Gb/s to every home in the near future. This increase in capacity is necessary due to the explosion in the range and size of content being delivered across broadband networks – from video on demand and IPTV to real time collaboration and education tools. And of course millions of cute kitten videos.
Optical fibre is the only known transmission mechanism able to provide the capacity needed. However as demands increase the amount of traffic the backbone network will have to handle will consequently rise dramatically, onto a petabit and exabit scale. If all 20 million homes in the UK had a 1 Gb/s Fibre to the home (FTTH) connection you will require a core backbone network that has petabit level capacity. US and pan-European networks will need to work at exabit speeds one day.