EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X025276/1
Title: FASTNET - Revolutionary hollow core low-latency fibres and cables for ultrafast next-generation optical networks
Principal Investigator: Poletti, Professor F
Other Investigators:
Numkam Fokoua, Dr E Jasion, Dr G Richardson, Professor DJ
Slavik, Professor R
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC)
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2023 Ends: 31 July 2028 Value (£): 2,863,267
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Optical Devices & Subsystems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
15 Nov 2022 Prosperity Partnership Round 5 Full Proposal Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The FASTNET Prosperity Partnership between Lumenisity and the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton will develop the first radically new optical communications medium in over 40 years. The program will make a one-third improvement in the speed at which data is transmitted, helping eliminate the lag and sluggish response of real-time interactive digital applications.

This digital lag is caused by the time it takes to transmit data from the user to a distant remote datacentre and back to the user. It can cause sickness in augmented and virtual reality entertainment, it removes responsive feel in remote surgery and healthcare, and it slows autonomous systems presenting a risk that they may not react in time.

The University of Southampton has pioneered a new way of transmitting high-capacity data in hollow optical fibre. Here, the data modulates a light beam that is transmitted in the air inside the fibre, rather than in the ultrapure glass that is in the centre of 100's of millions of kilometres of optical fibre used to connect the global internet today. By transmitting data in air, light travels 50% faster, whilst the design means the fibre is just as strong, lightweight and flexible as current technology, meaning it can be installed just as easily as current optical fibre cable. By transmitting data in air, the performance of this new hollow-core optical fibre is also much less dependent on the properties of the glass from which it is made. This opens the possibility of transmitting much more data - the program will target increasing data capacity by up to 500%.

Whilst major advances have been made in this new generation of hollow-core fibre, to date design and fabrication limitations mean that too much light has been lost when the fibre is incorporated into a cable as needed for real-world use, limiting its use to relatively short communication links. Moreover, the current manufacturing process is only capable of producing ~20km of fibre at a time, which ultimately represents a major impediment to widespread commercialization and deployment of the technology.

The major objective of this Prosperity Partnership will be to develop new designs, fabrication processes and cabling techniques that mean hollow-core fibre cable loses less light than conventional optical fibre. It will then be able to transmit data over much longer distances than even conventional optical fibre, whilst delivering 30% faster speed and much greater data-carrying capacity.

This project will leverage a 5-year commitment for co-investment by EPSRC and Lumenisity, an innovative new UK company formed in 2016 to bring hollow-core fibre cable and low lag (technically known as latency) communications to the market. Lumenisity is constructing a dedicated UK manufacturing facility and have built a world-leading engineering team with decades of optical technology, optical fibre and cable experience. They will work together with the University of Southampton to combine knowledge, facilities and globally leading research talent to overcome the technical challenges of reducing loss in hollow-core optical fibre, whilst maintaining its benefits in cabled form, and ensuring it can efficiently be manufactured in high volume within the UK.

Achieving this ambitious goal will enable UK invented, innovated and manufactured next-generation hollow-core optical fibre to be used in global communication networks. This will reduce future latency and help increase bandwidth for everyone, thereby helping to support the entire future digital economy. FASTNET will be key to connecting the nation, improving productivity in digital manufacturing, and enhancing network security and resilience, whilst supporting next-generation 5G and 6G applications such as autonomous vehicles and remote healthcare.
Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk