Internet 'capacity crunch'

Professor Andrew Ellis has been discussing the future of the internet with the media last week, suggesting ways the internet might be organised in a “post capacity crunch” world.

Andrew Ellis

Taken by some commentators as a doomsday scenario - Daily Mail and Das Bild , Prof Ellis has been explaining how new technologies will be required to prevent the energy consumption of the internet increasing beyond its current high levels where telecom operators consume around 2% of national electricity consumption [link to pod casts of BBC Radio WM and Coventry]. He has been explaining how European Union and EPSRC funded projects have been anticipating this so called “capacity crunch”, and suggested that there are recently published breakthroughs from these projects waiting in the wings

World leading experts from as far afield as China and the United States met at a Royal Society Discussion Meeting entitled “Communication Networks Beyond the Capacity Crunch”  to examine the problem in more detail and to propose solutions. Young researchers from throughout Europe will also meet at a special focus group meeting to propose radical new solutions.

With support from the IEEE Photonics Society, the Royal Society and the Wolfson Society, Prof Ellis has been discussing this with scientific and engineering communities worldwide, and will be more than happy to continue to discuss this topic with local schools, colleges, clubs and societies. For more details or questions, please contact Aston Team.

The Capacity Crunch. 

An unfamiliar phrase, the capacity crunch is related to the situation where the sum total of the internet traffic flowing between cities exceeds the capacity of a single fibre to carry it. This already applies in so called “network hot spots” where multiple fibres are but they are thankfully rare. The capacity crunch refers to the situation where these hot spots proliferate throughout the whole network. Predictions as to when the capacity crunch will bite vary, but at current growth rates, it is expected that we will feel the effects before the end of the next decade. It is not the first time that this has happened. From 1816 to 1975, all electronic communications were carried over copper cables. In the early 1980s a capacity crunch, when the inability of these copper cables to carry all of the communications traffic was feared, was averted by the  invention of the semiconductor laser and Optical Fibre (Charles K.Kao’s Nobel prize). 

Optical fibres now carry over 99% of all electronic data traffic, including data accessed using smart phones. We are now approaching a new revolution in communications technology, requiring highly trained engineers in disciplines such as Physics, Electronic and Communications Engineering. Opportunities to study these subjects may be found at many leading Universities including; UCLSouthamptonBristol and Cambridge  and of course Aston University.

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Upcoming Outreach Event 

The Lightfest that will take place on 25th of September 2015 in the Library of Birmingham as one of the UNESCO Year of Light events is a fantastic  possibility for us to raise local awareness about impact of light-based  technologies on economy, society and healthcare. 

We would like use this  event as an opportunity to build a network of science teachers in the greater  Birmingham area.The aim of this network is to assist teachers by updating  them with  the latest breakthroughs in the field and support them in  encouraging secondary school and sixth form students to pursue careers in  science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As part of Lightfest, we  wish to begin a dialogue with local science teachers on possible joint activities  including the equipping of schools with photonics demonstrators. We have  ambitious plans and we welcome any suggestions on how we can enhance  and improve our outreach activities.