Increasing the capacity of fiber-optic cables might one day be possible through the exploitation of a part of the signal commonly thought of as substandard. That imperfect element in a carrier, called “noise” is usually something one tries to avoid—it can muddy the accurate reading of the data.
However, scientists now suggest that one could, in fact, embrace the rubbishy, and thus far unusable, part of the signal to hold data and allow it to be decoded. The ordinarily data-obscuring hubbub could potentially be harnessed and used to increase data capacity in light waves.
“Information is encoded in the correlated noise between spatially separated light waves,” writes Oliver Morsch in an article on the website of ETH Zurich, a technical and scientific university. “The new coding technology, developed by ETH researchers, makes it possible to make better use of the transmission capacity of optical fibers.”