But we're still stuck with Big Cable.
By clicking one of our links you're supporting our labs and our independence, as we may earn a small share of revenue. Recommendations are separate from any business incentives.
What country has the fastest internet in the world? It depends on who you ask and how you measure it, but South Korea is usually the country that tops the list. Average speeds there are often double those found in the U.S.
But that’s commercially available broadband. What about speeds accomplished in a lab?
For that, you’ll have to go to Europe, where researchers in Denmark recently recorded a world record for data transmission speeds through a single-laser/single-fiber connection—the kind of network most of the world uses.
Scientists at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) managed to pump 43 terabits of data per second (Tbps) through a single optical fiber with just one laser transmitter. That’s equal to 5.4 terabytes per second (TBps), or 5,375 gigabytes per second (GBps).
Think of it this way: With that speed, you could simultaneously download more than 1,300 high-definition movies in a single second. You could also transfer the contents of a full 1 TB hard drive in less than a fifth of a second.
Let’s compare those speeds to existing averages in the United States. According to Akamai, the U.S. clocks in at an average of 10.5 Megabits per second (Mbps). Ookla puts the peak average at 26.7 Mbps, which is good for 27th in the world. That allows the average American to download a single HD movie in about 50 minutes.
The new record nearly doubles the previous mark of 26 Tbps, which was set by German researchers back in 2011.
But what's truly impressive about this feat is not the speed, but the technology used to accomplish it. It's especially noteworthy because it’s commercial-grade, and therefore commercially feasible.
Researchers at DTU have previously demonstrated aggregate data transfer speeds of 1 petabit (1000 terabits) per second, using hundreds of lasers over multiple fiber-optic lines. But those networks are so commercially impractical as to be pointless.
Earlier this year, France's Alcatel-Lucent and Britain's BT achieved fiber-optic broadband speeds of 1.4 Tbps using existing commercial hardware—not quite DTU's 43 Tbps, but still impressive. Meanwhile, South Korea pledged $1.5 billion to build a 1 Gbps "5G" wireless network by 2020.
But regardless of how cool these über-fast speeds may seem, don’t expect Comcast or TWC to invest in them any time soon. Why? Well, according to them, high-speed connectivity is just an "irrelevant exercise in bragging rights" that American consumers aren't actually asking for.
Hero image: Wikimedia Commons, "Hhedeshian" (CC BY 3.0)