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MIT Researchers Explore Boosting Internet Speeds 100 Times

The "flow switching" approach uses optical, rather than electrical, switching and could increase data rates by 100 to 1,000 times today's speeds.

A group of MIT scientists has been working for years to develop a new way to organize optical networks that theoretically at least could boost the speed of the Internet 100 times.

Their latest findings are being presented by the team leader, Professor Vincent Chan, at this week's OptoElectronics and Communications Conference in Japan. Chan, who is the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, calls his approach "flow switching," which eschews electrical switching in favor of optical switching.

The Chan team research posits that flow switching is able to increase the data rates of optical networks by as much as 100 times to even 1,000 times faster than current Web traffic while saving power in the process, too.

According to a recent report from MIT, Chan believes the coming explosion of video on the Internet could increase the value of flow switching or of a technique like it. The MIT report quoted Ori Gerstel, a Cisco principal engineer, who praised Chan's use of optical networking as being more practical than other new approaches designed to speed up traffic transmission on the Internet. The problem, however, is economic, because existing Internet routers would have to be replaced before flow switching could become in wider usage.

Gerstel believes there may not be enough demand yet for a faster Internet. "Flow switching works fairly well for fairly large demand," said Gerstel, according to the MIT report, "if you have users who needs a lot of bandwidth and want low delay through the network. But most customers are not in that niche today."

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