Imagine being able to download the entire Game of Thrones series in high definition in less than one second.
That promise just got a considerable step closer to becoming a reality after researchers carried out successful field trials of a new data-transmission technique that can deliver speeds of one terabit per second (Tbps) over fibre optic cables.
To put that into perspective, Google's high-speed fibre internet service Google Fibre promises speeds of one gigabit per second (1Gbps). Although not available yet, 1Gbps is also touted as the top speed potential of the NBN's fibre-to-the-premises connections.
The speed achieved by researchers in the recent trials is 1000 times faster.
"The breakthrough research could extend the capability of optical networks to meet surging data traffic demands," the team said.
The testing was carried out in Dusseldorf, Germany, by Nokia Bell Labs, German telco provider Deutsche Telekom and the Technical University of Munich.
Bell Labs was founded in 1925 by the man credited with inventing the first practical telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, and is a US research and scientific development company now owned by Nokia.
Marcus Weldon is the president of Nokia Bell Labs and Nokia's chief technology officer. He said the speeds achieved by the latest trials were close to the theoretical maximum information transfer rate over the fibre link.
"Future optical networks not only need to support orders of magnitude higher capacity, but also the ability to dynamically adapt to channel conditions and traffic demand," he said in a statement.
The successful trial adds momentum to the pursuit of making terabit networks a reality and comes just months after a similar breakthrough by researchers in London.
In February scientists at the University College London set a new record for the fastest ever data rate for digital information when they achieved speeds of 1.125Tbps - quick enough to download the entirety of Game of Thrones in HD "within one second," they noted at the time.
Future optical networks not only need to support orders of magnitude higher capacity, but also the ability to dynamically adapt to channel conditions and traffic demand.
Such an example is a useful way to visualise 1Tbps data transmission capabilities but such speeds will have much more important applications in the future.
As Inverse points out, the Nokia breakthrough will be critical for the provision of future 5G mobile connections in major hubs and will help prevent self driving cars from crashing by allowing them to share information between themselves and other vehicles much quicker.
Dr Rod Tucker is a professor at the University of Melbourne and former Director of the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society. He said when developing this type of new technology there has "always been a trade of between distance and speed."
While the exact distance achieved in the Nokia trials is not overly clear, it appears to amount to a 30 per cent increase in capability and is approaching the absolute speed limit of fibre optics, known as the Shannon limit.
The problem is that the demand for bandwidth is doubling every two years, so eventually they're going to have to do something else, for example put more fibres in the ground.
The Shannon limit was discovered in 1948 by Claude Shannon, known as the father of information theory.
"In recent years there's been huge steps forward to reaching that Shannon's Limit," he said.
Dr Tucker said the Nokia trial is the latest attempt to try and squeeze the last little bit of performance out of fibre optic cables by maximising the bandwidth potential of each fibre.
"The problem is that the demand for bandwidth is doubling every two years, so eventually they're going to have to do something else, for example put more fibres in the ground."
But compared to other technologies such as copper, which has been used in much of the NBN rollout, the speeds and bandwidth "are absolutely huge," Dr Tucker said. "Far far greater than anything copper is capable of."
Such speeds were "never really necessary in a fibre to the home connection but will be needed in big cities where large amounts of data gets aggregated," he said.
As for when such new technology could be used by the general public, it likely won't be too long.
"The time from lab demonstration to commercialisation is very fast, often about five years," Dr Tucker said.