The internet could be 100 times faster than it is today if a new £7.2m six-year research project, the Photonics HyperHighway, is successful.
University and science minister David Willetts said the investment will see scientists from the universities of Southampton and Essex working with industry partners BBC Research and Development, Fianium and Oclaro to develop new materials and devices for optical fibre networks. The project will look at the way fibre optics are used, and develop new materials and devices to increase internet bandwidth to ensure that the web can cope with rising demand.
The future internet would have to be based on optical fibre to meet an annual 80% growth in traffic driven by applications such as internet television and cloud computing, said project leader Southampton professor David Payne.
Willetts said the internet was "fundamental to our lives" and that Britain had to ensure that the web infrastructure could continue to meet demand for it.
"The Photonics HyperHighway project has the potential to truly revolutionise the internet, making it much faster and more energy-efficient. The project is also a shining example of the UK’s world-leading role in this area of research," he said.
Payne added, "Our ambition is nothing less than to rebuild the internet hardware to suit it to the needs of 21st-century Britain. This project proposes a radical transformation of the physical infrastructure that underpins these networks.”
The UK internet industry was worth an estimated £100bn, so it was in the country’s interest to make it even better for businesses and help boost economic growth, Willetts said.