Students Staff

31 January 2011

Mission to reinvent the internet

Colchester Campus

Fibre optics

Scientists at Essex have teamed up with the University of Southampton for a major £7.2 million research project that will aim to transform the internet.


The growing demands on the internet are stretching the original network to its limits. From YouTube and BBC iPlayer, to Facebook and Wikipedia, the ever-growing use of digital media and other bandwidth-intensive applications is leading the network towards “capacity crunch”.


This major research project, announced by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, aims to radically transform the infrastructure underpinning today’s over-stretched network.


The substantial, six-year Photonics Hyperhighway project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will focus on one of the most important challenges facing our modern society – an energy-efficient, ultra high capacity ICT infrastructure able to connect people and businesses seamlessly everywhere.


The project will look at pioneering new technologies that could make broadband internet 100 times faster to meet the 20-year needs and avoid network gridlock.

“The internet has totally changed our social behaviour, and now our social behaviour is about to impose fundamental changes in the network technology,” explained Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at Essex.

Another partner of this ambitious project is the BBC, who is keen for the network to be able to cope with the increasingly demands of Ultra High Definition and beyond. BT is also supporting the project as it is keen to see how the network will evolve to support high-end applications.

Optical fibre technology may be a new concept in domestic communications, but as the system’s popularity grows it will only be able to cope for so long. The team at Essex, led by Professor Simeonidou, supported by Professor Ian Henning, will be developing ideas of how networks need to develop and their partners at Southampton will be providing the technology.

The importance of optical networking to the modern economy is recognised worldwide. The new technology providing seamless connection has the potential to lead to major advances and benefits in other important areas, including security, the environment, manufacture, healthcare and finance. For example, being able to carry out transactions even a few milliseconds faster could have significant impact on the financial sector.


The project will re-examine the way fibre optics are used, develop new fibre materials and devices to increase bandwidth, and reduce bottlenecks in the electronic hubs that help power the internet around the world.


 “It is a very ambitious programme,” added Professor Simeonidou. “We are designing a hyper highway which is going to meet future internet demand.”




Note to Editors


For more information please contact the University Communications Office on 01206 872400 or e-mail


The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £850m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.



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